Economic Growth

Rising GDPs, Declining Work Hours

GDPs have continued to go up even as total hours work have gone down.

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In 1877, Switzerland was fast emerging as one of the world's manufacturing powerhouses and richest nations. Its average annual per capita income of $5,584 was well ahead of America's $4,708. Along with industrialization came the creation of a proletariat and a new ideology—socialism. To combat the spread of the latter, the Swiss government passed a Factory Act that limited, for the first time, the length of the working day… to 11 hours.

In 2010, when Angus Maddison's valuable dataset ends, per capita income in Switzerland and the United States was $45,414 and $55,316 respectively (all figures are in 2016 dollars). The real standard of living in Switzerland and America improved 8-fold and 12-fold. In the meantime, Swiss worked, on average, 7 hours per day and Americans 7.6 hours per day.

Working hours have been declining throughout the industrialized world. Between 1950 and 2015, one dataset shows, working hours in Switzerland and the United States declined by 21 percent and 11 percent respectively. Some of the biggest declines were in Holland (28 percent) and Denmark (31 percent).

In the coming decades, we will see a shrinking labor force precipitated by declining birth rates and a robotics revolution that will upend the economy as we know it. Time will show if the salutary trend of declining working hours and growing incomes can continue.

Explore more data like this at HumanProgress.org.

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  1. Time will show if the salutary trend of declining working hours and growing incomes can continue.

    Is that your entire comclusion?

    The answer is no – especially not if we keep paying people who do nothing. Worse if we import more unskilled laborers instead of automating their roles.

    1. Also, GDP sucks as a metric of economic health. Please stop using it.

      1. The headline says GDP, but the article and the graph use the normalized value of GDP/capita.

      2. But just look how rich WWII made us!

    2. Worse if we import more unskilled laborers instead of automating their roles.

      No, worse if politics force one or the other choice against market workings. Your personal opinions have nothing to do with which is better, any more than politicians and voters.

      1. People are not shoes. You can’t throw them out when you don’t need them anymore.

      2. I didn’t interpret that as a demand for a legal requirement to automate job roles as much as a polemic against legally requiring the import of unskilled laborers.

        1. Rather, in some/most cases; a polemic against the legal sanctioning of self-importing unskilled laborers.

    3. UnC,

      Indeed, and a highly related direct comparison is that they have a naturally tightly controllable border if they want to use it, with their Yuuuge mountain borders. They have a lot of immigration for a while, being part of the “open border” Shengen agreement, but within that have tightened somewhat, and all who move there dont casually get citizenship.

      Euro PC contagion has hit the Swiss as most of Europe in recent years, so they also have some Muslim refugees and asylumees. But the locals have pushed back with limits related to a very autonomous Canton system and an active and frequently used national referendum system (( (http://www.bloombergview.com/quicktake/ switzerlands – people – power) )).

      No quasi autocrat with a phone and pen can effectively twist their tax system to blatantly screw opponents and effectively open the border as much as Merkel has in Germany. Merkel is using the libertarian approved open border magic. Gee, it must be a good idea that will benefit Germany; beloved theory says so!

  2. Between 1950 and 2015, one dataset shows, working hours in Switzerland and the United States declined by 21 percent and 11 percent respectively. Some of the biggest declines were in Holland (28 percent) and Denmark (31 percent).

    I’m going to take away from that datapoint a conclusion that we have in fact become lazier.

  3. Part time and full time free online jobs ,my unkel makes $45 /hr on the computer . He has been out of work for 4 months but last month her pay check was $4510 just working on the computer for a few hours.
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  4. HumanProgress.org needs some lessons in data graphics. First, never use JPEG format. Second, use fixed decimal format for axis labels so that significant digits are consistent:
    This: 1.65, 1.70, 1.75…
    Rather than: 1.65, 1.7, 1.75…

    1. I find the form they have it in easier to read, because my eye can hold a part of the shape on the left while tracking to the line and back again to find the value. Uniformity of all elements would make me lose my place.

      But yeah, don’t use jpg for charting data.

  5. Well, this was thrilling.

  6. Doing my part to keep that average number of hours down.

  7. But Switzerland isn’t a member of the EU and has very strict immigration laws. I am not sure the example of Switzerland means quite what reason thinks it does.

    1. According to Wikipedia, the percentage of the Swiss population that are immigrants is 29% while that of the US is about 25-26% (including birthright citizens).

      1. That doesn’t mean the immigration laws aren’t “strict”. For example, none of Switzerland’s immigrants are unwanted anchor babies because the Swiss don’t allow birthright citizenship. And the two largest immigrant groups in Switzerland by far are Germans and Italians, which are to Switzerland what Canadians are to Americans.

        1. Canada likes to throw it’s crazies and entertainers to America, is this the same with Germany and Italy?

  8. Comparing their population of 8 million to the US’s 320 million is also not a good comparison. NYC has more people than all of Switzerland

    1. It means the average person US is richer than the average Swiss.

      1. And the median income in Switzerland is quite a bit higher than in the US. Which means that the average person is better off in Switzerland than in the US – but the average rich person is much better off in the US than Switzerland.

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  10. In the coming decades, we will see a shrinking labor force precipitated by declining birth rates and a robotics revolution that will upend the economy as we know it. Time will show if the salutary trend of declining working hours and growing incomes can continue.

    Seems unlikely. If automation starts replacing labor rather than amplifying its productivity, then the free market proceeds from productivity increases will go increasingly to owners of capital. Essentially, an increasing number of people will be entirely dependent on charity or redistribution, so the conflicts between negative-sum-equality politics and positive-sum-inequality politics are only going to increase, to the detriment of humanity.

    The only way out is some explicit social movement to make the capitalist class as broad as possible, by ensuring ordinary people own commercial automation, whether it’s robots or 3d printers.

    1. Seems unlikely.

      The only way out is some explicit social movement to make the capitalist class as broad as possible, by ensuring ordinary people own commercial automation, whether it’s robots or 3d printers.

      Oooh! And once we set up a market for these ‘holders of shares’ we can thwart the bureaucratic fat cats by automating the whole thing with complete transparency and perfect anonymity of the blockchain!

      Seriously, I hope the naivete is false or maybe just youth, otherwise you’re a pretty hardcore fanboi.

    2. The link between productivity and income was broken in the US about 40 years ago.

      http://blogs-images.forbes.com…..0/epi2.png

  11. This can’t be right, my Bernie loving friends whine about Americans work too much and are worked to death, but it seems to me we work 10% less than we did 50 years ago.

  12. Higher GDP, fewer working hours? I blame the robots.

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  14. uptil I saw the bank draft four $8760 , I be certain …that…my sister woz actually bringing in money part time from there labtop. . there neighbour had bean doing this 4 only about eighteen months and resently cleard the depts on there home and bourt a top of the range Chrysler ….

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