Blogging while eating…

August 11th, 2008 | by Andrew Ó Baoill |

I’m battling yet another software melt-down – just after fixing the wifi (by reinstalling everything), my MacBook has copied my Mini in refusing to open applications like Word, and showing a blank desktop (though the files are actually still on the system, the icons just aren’t showing on screen). Time for yet another reinstall on both machines, I suppose.

Anyhow, while simultaneously cursing my luck, trying to think of solutions, eating my lunch, and feeding my news junkie habit, I came across a BBC article on lunch-breaks. Specifically, the declining number of English workers who take them, and the proven benefits associated with taking them. Noteworthy:

In the 1970s the British were the laziest men of Europe. Now they are considered the workaholics of Europe, thanks to an adoption of the American work ethic in the mid-80s, says Professor Cooper. But tellingly, productivity per capita in the UK remains lower than many of its European neighbours.

Now, I’m already familiar with the fact that the US performs well on productivity per capita, but less well on productivity per hour worked, as does Ireland (which is something like 2nd on productivity per worker, but 5th on productivity per hour worked). Essentially, the US and Ireland do particularly well in productivity because of the large number of hours worked per person – linked to fewer holidays and longer work weeks – but not so well, relatively, on productivity per hour. There’s obviously a trade off made between extra hours worked per person (which leads to higher per capita productivity, allowing higher wages/pensions) and increased time away from work (which is, so to speak, good for the soul) – though the decision is often not made at an individual level, but by a mixture of employer dictates, public policy (mandatory paid leave, public holidays, etc.), and social mores.

What’s interesting to see here is the claim that despite erring towards more hours of work per person, the UK hasn’t necessarily reaped the reward of greater productivity. I’m having difficulty locating easily digestible statistics online today – the OECD and Eurostat sites, while comprehensive, aren’t always the easiest to navigate, and I don’t want to spend that much time right now – but I’d love to see some historical trends for several countries, including the UK. Maybe there’s something in the Baker book, which I’ve been relying on as a wonderful compendium and tool ever since we used it in teaching Media, Money, and Power…

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