John Maynard Keynes was a brilliant economist, but he didn’t get everything right. In 1930 he promised us technological progress would mean endless leisure because we’d only be working 15 hours a week by 2030. You’ll have noticed we’re way off track – full-time workers still average more than double that, with only eight years to go.
He was also wrong in believing that reducing average hours worked would translate into more leisure time. In fact, the amount of leisure time we have has actually fallen over the past 40 years. Why? Partly because total paid work per household hasn’t fallen, it has just shifted from men to women as the slow death of the patriarchy proceeds – Keynes didn’t see that coming.
But something else radical is happening: we’re spending shedloads of time with the kids. Over the past four decades, women have been doing a lot less socialising, while mothers of children under five are now spending an extra 55 minutes a day on childcare (a 150% increase). Fathers are at it too, doing 34 minutes extra a week (a 400% increase – they used to do diddly squat).
Parents are spending more time with their kids across advanced economies – only France bucks the trend. This is generally good, although my seven-year-old would definitely take roaming the fields medieval style over our bonding. New research examining the Danish extension of paid parental leave to 46 weeks in the early 2000s shows that the benefits of parents spending more time with their kids early on resulted in better adolescent wellbeing, conscientiousness and emotional stability. So yes, the life of those of you looking after babies is a leisure desert, but researchers at least think it’s time well spent.
July 17, 2022 at 02:12PM Torsten Bell