The end of the 40-hour workweek?

Salaried workers are asked to do much more. Meanwhile, lower-level jobs are being turned into part-time positions with irregular schedules.

By MSN Money Partner Jul 6, 2011 2:50PM

This post comes from Seth Fiegerman at partner site MainStreet.


The era of a 9-to-5 workday appears to be coming to an end.


Higher-level workers are increasingly being asked to put in 50 hours or more a week, effectively working an 8-to-6 day at the very least, while lower-income workers are often forced to work fewer hours but at jobs with irregular schedules, according to a comprehensive report from the Center for American Progress (.pdf file), which reviewed dozens of studies from the previous 30 years to understand the changing work/life struggles of the country's labor force.


Driving these changes, as the center explains it, are companies turning lower-level full-time jobs into part-time employment to cut costs, savings that come at the expense of workers -- and their families -- losing the traditional schedules and financial benefits that come with full-time employment.


At least 50 hours

Some 38% of men in professional and management positions worked at least 50 hours a week between 2006 and 2008, up from 34% who worked those hours 30 years prior, based on government studies cited in the report. Women in higher-level positions experienced an even steeper change, with 14% working 50 hours or more in 2006-2008 compared with just 6% who did between 1977 and 1979.

These longer work schedules, which the center describes as being "ramped-up versions" of what full-time employment once meant, were found to be particularly common on the higher end of the income ladder.


"Many of the highest-paying and highest-status professional jobs require very long hours -- and, in today's 'winner take all' economy, turning them down can extract a sharp wage penalty," the researchers write in the report. Post continues after video.

Much has been written about the number of Americans forced to work longer hours in the aftermath of the recession, as companies cut their payrolls, but as the literature reviewed in this report shows, many higher-level professionals were in danger of becoming workaholics long before that. One Harvard study published in 2006, for example, found that a fifth of those in the top 6% of income earners actually worked 60-hour weeks on average.


On the other hand, lower-level workers are facing the opposite problem. The percentage of men in low-income professions who worked 50 hours a week was cut in half during the previous 30 years, despite the fact that these workers often want to put in more hours to build up their income. To make matters worse, though they work fewer hours, their schedules tend to be more irregular, with two-thirds of couples who earn less than $50,000 a year having at least one spouse who works hours outside the traditional 9-to-5 schedule (i.e., nights and weekends).


This change in schedules for high- and low-level employees not only has the potential to cause added stress while at work but, according to the report, it also has the potential to cut into the time these people would otherwise spend taking care of their households.


Companies lose

Even the companies themselves may not benefit in the end from pushing more inconvenient work schedules. As the center points out, one survey found that workers would be 30% less likely to quit their job within the first two years if they had flexible schedules. However, since their schedules are getting worse, not better, companies may have to confront higher turnover and the added financial burden that comes with replacing employees.


Despite the changes to the nation's overall work experience, there are plenty of companies that do provide flexible schedules and other perks to lighten the burden of a heavy workweek. To find a few of the best options out there, check out MainStreet's roundup of the companies with the healthiest work/life balance.


More on MainStreet and MSN Money:


I was getting excited at the thought of the end of the 40 hour work week till I realized they were talking about going to a 50-60  hour work week ...........
Jul 8, 2011 10:48AM
It's unfortunate but this is the reality now. I have to work 60 hours a week because my boss is too cheap to hire someone else to ease my workload. I hate it and often wonder is it's worth it. But what are my choices in tis economy? Sometimes I think the Europeans have it right.. there's more to life than working all the time.
Jul 8, 2011 8:22AM

Let's face it, the days when your family could live decent on one wage earner are long gone!!  Now it takes two middle class incomes to even come close to making ends meet, and the hours we work are longer and longer. 


Why is that?  Many reasons that would take a book to explain, but here's just a few.

1. Too many jobs sent overseas.

2. An over abundance of cheap labor here because of immigration. (Illegal and legal)

3. Continually rising gap between the middle class and the wealthy.

4. Dwindling competition.  Way too many mergers and buyouts causing Monopolies in many areas.

5. Political corruption. Neither party looks out for anyone but themselves and they are all rich.

6. Greed.  It's not a dirty word anymore.  It's a common acceptable business practice.

7. Death of the unions. They were far from perfect, but they helped negotiate better wages and working conditions for the people that had no other .



Jul 8, 2011 3:22PM
50 years ago, the philosophy was "You come to work for me, work hard and do a good job.  I will advance you accordingly.  I prosper, you prosper.  You take care of me and I will take care of you."   And, the world went around.

Fast forward to today: "You come to work for me.  You work hard, do a good job and I will keep you  until I can find someone to do it cheaper.  Benefits?  Not if I can get out of providing them!  I intend to get mine, screw you!   I'll work you until you drop.  And, when you turn 50 I'll invent a reason to get rid of you and hire two just like you at half the salary and start all over.

Hell has a special place for those who abuse those unable to defend themselves.

Jul 8, 2011 10:29AM
This is what happens when you have a government that is run by the corporate world .  I am surprised there hasn't been a labor revolution by now with corporate CEO's being hung from flagpoles.
Jul 8, 2011 12:10PM

Corrupt politicans bail out banks engaged in casino capitalism using your money

- Corrupt politicans pass legislation to overturn Glass Steagle so banks can get into insurance and brokerage business

- corrupt politicans keep the Fed Reserve and fractional reserve banking in control and in fact increase their powers.

- Reglators are corrupt and do not investigate fraud and corruption in too big to fails, insurance cos and big wall st. investment banks.

- Corrupt credit rating agencies are not investigated or indicted.

- Mortgage lending practices are not investigated, nor are lenders or fraudulant mortages or the Mers system which allows the avoidance of transfer taxes.

- No limits are placed on derivatives or oversight or on hedge funds.

- No inquiry into concentrated media ownership has been conducted.

- over 27 trillion has been handed over to banks, record deficits are created, and no money is getting back to  small businesses which create most jobs.

- Billions are spent on wars you do not want and they are not making America safer. Your president got a nobel peace prize and got the US into 2 additional wars. He is systematically wrecking the economy. What next, the Nobel Prize in Economics.

- Globalists have pressured corrupt politicans to pass trade agreements like GATT and WTO that virtually guarantee manufacturing will go offshore. The biggest corps. like GE pay no taxes.  

- They tell you that unemployment is 9.2% while 48 million are collecting food stamps and you believe it.

- Obama spent more money in his first year in office than all preceeding presidents. His deficits are outrageous. Government income is down, war costs up and they tell you no more tax increases. Come on folks!

    Now the public is being asked to sacrifice and work harder for less so that gov't and globalists can continue to rape you. You thought slavery ended 100 yrs ago. Wake up folks, it's the bankers that are raping you, destroying your lives, livelihoods and who have bought and paid for your politicans. Bankers control the Fed, government, the military, big oil, big pharma and the 100 biggest corporations. Let's face it folks, you have been duped and you are going down fast.

      Corruption is at never seen before levels and there are no investigations or indictments. Who are the real dummies, them or you. Good luck America.

Jul 8, 2011 9:28AM
Bless this oligarchy and plutocracy!

Keep groveling and working for the corrupt and privileged!

Bless us, bless us all!

Work 60 hour weeks, can't see kids, can't have a life..SO THAT A FEW CRIMINAL RICH CAN LIVE LIKE KINGS!

Not me!   Do like the rich


And you guys hate the unions?  Yep, the unions messed up.  They demanded (and got) too much and, made many American businesses uncompetitive with third world workers living in squalor and on two bowls of rice a day.  I hope you all know that the current starting pay at UAW plants is about $14 an hour.  Once all the old timers are out the new standard will be your standard.  Watch what happens to hourly wages, nationwide, when that happens.  You'll all get what you wanted, lower union wages but, they are going to drag your wages  down with them.  Do you honestly think big business gives a damn about you?  Do you really want unions to go away, and leave it all up to big business?  Right to work states, what a joke.  Yeah, the right to work for lower wages.  Republicans are counting on you sheeple that are willing to work for less as long as you have a job.  Me, I'd rather fight those bastards, and have the balls to stand up to their terrorism.  The balls of the American worker has shrunk to the size of an acorn in just two generations.
Jul 8, 2011 9:35AM
Welcome to the sweatshop-----USA style.
Jul 8, 2011 10:44AM
If you want to be a higher-level worker then work the hours required to be successful.  Find something else to do if the time commitment is too great.  
What's the point in life if you spend the majority of it working towards career success just to die in the end?  There are so many things out there that I enjoy doing that I refuse to spend my life chasing a dollar just to be miserable in the process.
I work to live, not the other way around.
Jul 8, 2011 9:14AM
I retired two years ago. Glad I did after 42 years in the business & contracting world. Appears that the government is pushing very hard for all the younger people to go to college these days. That is nice, however, after receiving a degree, where will it be used-China perhaps?? This country is no longer a strong country, thanks to all the political crooks in Washington.  Nothing but greed and arogance!
Jul 8, 2011 7:17AM
Corporate America today.....doing more with less. And with Wall Street investors making money on the enhanced profits from cutting heads, why in the World would they stop or make it better for the workers? There is ZERO incentive for them to do this. NONE. It's not like workers can just up and leave and find a better place to work these days, in case anyone reading this is living under a rock and has not checked the job market in the past few years. Plus these shareholders and business owners know that ultimately, in the not so distant future, the REAL economic collapse is coming. So they are at the table right now stuffing their faces and filling their pockets to weather what promises to be a long and nasty period for the US economy.
Jul 8, 2011 10:42AM
Here's some basic math for you tight-a**ed business owners running with nothing but part-time workers. Less income = less disposable income = less people buying your products = more people thrown out of work. Any questions ?
This is the point I like to make in regards to outsourcing.  I work for a large life insurance company that has sent a great deal of software development jobs to India.  From a macroeconomic standpoint, we're cutting off our noses to spite our own faces. 
We're not selling policies in India; we're selling insurance policies in the U.S.  When we send money overseas through outsourcing, we're in effect cutting our own client base.  That's not to say the developer we let go to hire Sandeep is going to buy one of our policies, but his lost income, and the income lost to other Americans through his spending (the dollar multiplier effect) means that someone down the economic line may not have the money to buy a policy. 
The more jobs we send off, the fewer people in the states have income to spend in the states, which would have became someone else's income, etc, etc.
Jul 8, 2011 9:25AM
Welcome to the real world, Rip Van Feigerman. This work-your-butt-off started in the 1970's. It is just more apparent now because the unemployment rate is so high. Thanks to Washington and their unwillingness to undo NAFTA, not change the income tax structure on corporations and executives, outsourcing of American jobs, etc. What was that word again? Change, right. We are changing into a welfare/illegal immigrant country.
Jul 7, 2011 1:42PM
France has it right with a 35 hour work week and a minimum of 5 weeks vacation.  US corporations have learned that they can lay off workers, then spread the load among those left, saving a huge amount of overhead.  The remaining workers are forced to work 50+ hours just to keep up with the additional load, but they won't complain for fear of being replaced.  It seems that more and more businesses are becoming white collar sweat shops.  Along with that, most of the once good union blue collar jobs have been sent overseas. 
Jul 8, 2011 9:51AM
I used to  work many hours a week, sometimes over 50.  I asked that some that were sent home early every day take my place.  I had a terminally ill husband at home, and wanted to spend time with him. Only one supervisor ever understood, and let me do that.  Sweatshop, you bet.!  The 40 hour work week, week ends off, is pretty much a thing of the past.
Jul 8, 2011 3:56AM
Many companies are going to this format. Think for one minute I'm sure most of you have went into a grocery store or a retail store and found 12 cash registers and 2 cashiers, at the same time you might also see a member of management on a register. This is a good model for a company trying to hold onto a dollar but its not right, how are the customers being served well when they have to wait in a long line to purchase their items, how can management keep an eye on everything when they are stuck on a register. The real truth is that the work isn't getting done properly and I have seen customers leave stores because they get no help or they are waiting too long to purchase their merchandise. This may be a good idea in the short term to save money but it sounds bad in the long term because it might alienate customers. I have personally avoided shopping at certain stores because of these problems, the only time I go to these institutions is when I have plenty of time on my hand or my choices of other stores are just as bad or more limited. 
Jul 8, 2011 8:59AM
Boy, am I ever glad I'm not in the workforce anymore.  I knew this sort of thing was coming when corporations rushed to jump on the "downsizing" wagon twenty years ago.  Somehow the workforce is starting to look more and more like slave labor.  They can have it!
Jul 8, 2011 4:35AM
I'm annoyed by the use of the word "workaholic" in this article.  A workaholic is not someone who works a 50+-hour workweek because they are told to by their boss.  A workaholic is someone who ENTIRELY OF THEIR OWN FREE WILL puts in psychotically long hours compared to everyone else, because their life is so hollow and devoid of interest that they lean on work as a crutch to keep themselves preoccupied and avoid the need to rethink the choices in their life which have left their career as the only source of satisfaction in their lives.  I think I know of at least one.
Damn socialistic European countries and their 35 hour work weeks, free healthcare for everyone, and average of 5 weeks of vacation per year,   Socialism sure sucks.
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