May 1 -- Americans work more than anyone in the industrialized world.
More than the English, more than the French, way more than the Germans or Norwegians. Even, recently, more than the Japanese.
And Americans take less vacation, work longer days, and retire later, too.
That much most people agree on. What's harder to pin down is exactly how much Americans are working. It may be more than our industrialized competitors, but is it more than we have ever worked before?
The short answer, according to the government, is that it is only slightly more and not so much that most people should really notice.
Numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show a very gradually rising trend through the 1990s that has only just recently tapered off, hovering somewhere just north of 40 hours weekly.
A Month More a Year?
The long answer is, of course, more complicated. It depends who you ask, and about whom you're asking.
Author Juliet Schor, who wrote the best-selling book The Overworked American in 1992, concluded that in 1990 Americans worked an average of nearly one month more per year than in 1970.
There are also volumes of surveys that ask people if they're working more than they used to. Generally, people say yes, of course they are. And they also estimate almost 10 more hours a week than the government does.
A Bunch of Whiners?
Critics pooh-pooh such studies, saying self-estimators are exaggerators, although most of those studies echo the same general trend as governmental figures — a bit of a rise through the '90s with a slight dip recently.
Dissenters to overworked-American theories say it's better to base studies on employers' reports of worker hours, which is what the government does, but that leaves out overtime hours worked by salaried employees.
Critics also point to what they say is a growing number of part-time jobs. How can people be working more if they are not working full-time?
Here's where you have to ask which workers we're really talking about.