The Physics
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Time Spent at Work

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Antel, G. Harris, W. Economics: Institutions and Analysis. New York Amsco School Publications, Inc, 1997: 200, 206. "The fair labor Standards Act established a nation wage of 25 cents per hour and a maximum work week of 44 hours. (In a few years the former would rise to 40 cents, while the latter would fall to 40 hours)." 40 hours/week
"Whereas in the early 19th century the workweek in New England textile mills averaged 72 hours, the present day nonfarm workweek averages about 35 hours." 35โ€“72 hours/week
Working in the 21st Century. US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Couples with Children under 18 tend to work somewhat fewer hours than those without children -- 66 hours compared with 70 hours. [See image below.]" 66โ€“70 hours/week
(married couples)
Braskel, KJ. Pierre, AL. Weigelt, JA. Resident Work Hours: What They Are Really Doing. Chicago: Archives of Surgery, 2004; 139: 490-494. "Residents worked 80 hours or less for 57 weeks and more than 80 hours for 53 weeks. The mean number of hours worked was 77 hours." 77โ€“80 hours/week
Working Time and Work Organization (WTWO). International Labour Standards. International Labour Organization. 2005. "The Forty-Hour Week Convention, 1935 advocates the principle of a 40-hour week, a principle further developed in the Reduction of Hours of Work Recommendation, 1962 which affirms the 40-hour week as a social standard to be reached progressively." 40 hours/week

People often complain about the number of hours they put in at work. People feel over stressed and over worked. While this may be true, on a national scale people are working less hours than ever before. In fact for a long time people could and would work for majority of the day, because of the lack of legislation for workers  rights. People who worked in mines or factories, often would start work before the sun rose, and did not end work until after the sun has set. In fact, the average number of hours worked in 19th century New England textile mills was 72-hours per week!

It was only until the early twentieth century that the first legislation putting limits to the number of hours one could work in a day, had been passed. For example, in 1919, the Hours of Work Convention had heavily promoted the idea of the eight-hour day, and the 48-hour week. At later conventions, this number had been slashed from a 48-hour work week to a 40-hour work week (or working five-days per week instead of six).

However, do not think that this rule is not broken in modern day. After doctors complete medical school, but before they are able to practice, they have to complete residency rotations. Typically, the average resident works a total of 80-hours each week. Even though more recent legislature has been passed to try to stop this practice, it is not uncommon to still see residents working 110-hour weeks! That s equivalent to working over 15-hours per day, seven-days a week!

Currently, people are working even less than the maximum allotted; just 35-hours a week on average. So the next time you feel that your work day is unbearably long, be glad that you are not one of these unlucky cuss, who did or who still do have to work double or triple, what you do.

Bar Graphs

Rory Abrams -- 2005