Updated: 21 May 2008, 23:29
Originally written: 27 August 2006
Long ago, technology promised that it would free us from the mundane tasks of life and work so we would have more free time to enjoy ourselves.
According to the Conference Board, which is a private research organization in the United States, that promise appears to have been broken. 40 percent of American workers will not be taking summer holidays in 2006. That is the lowest recorded percentage in 28 years. The Bureau of Labour Statistics in the U.S. gives us the fact that almost a quarter of American workers get no paid holidays. A third take only one week-long holiday per year.
The promise was not fulfilled because it was a trick. If society worked for workers we would have the free time to enjoy. But society works for the employers, so we are expected to produce more, and more, and more. And notably lately, with less, and less, and less. Workers now produce much more as a result of the technology we have developed. But the pressure is still constantly upon us to produce even more. When the paid hours run out, all that are left are the unpaid hours.
So workers work unpaid overtime, unpaid through their lunch “breaks,” and through their “holidays.” Perhaps some get paid for the hours they work instead of taking holidays, but it is a benefit due them from their employment contracts, and they are giving it back to the employer.
Do workers in the United States love their jobs and employers so much? Are they no longer interested in a break away from work?
Worker productivity is supposedly calculated based upon hours worked. Capitalism’s Gravediggers suspects that those calculations do not include the unpaid hours and the worked holidays of workers in the United States. That would inflate their supposed productivity. If so, it still might be that American workers would show high productivity rates if those unpaid hours were included, but distortion is distortion.
Workers are played off against other workers, within a country and around the world. The need to be competitive is a feature of capitalist production, and is not inherent in production. When we replace production for profit with production for use, the promise of technology will finally be realized.