Arnold Kling  

Work Hours and Comparative Advantage

Abramoff and Rent-Seeking... Mmmm... Lunch...

Tim Worstall reports on research that explains the differences between hours worked in the U.S. and Europe.

the fact that many German women stay at home to make sauerkraut, while more American women go outside the home to do something they're good at, buying the food at the supermarket on the way home, means that the American women are both richer and have more leisure time.

There are three blocks of time: market work, unpaid work at home, and leisure. Americans have more market work and more leisure. Europeans do more unpaid work at home.

What this means is the European GDP is understated, because the unpaid work at home does not count. But by the same token, European leisure is overstated in any measure that fails to take into account unpaid work.

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COMMENTS (3 to date)
Tim Worstall writes:

I’m not sure that GDP is actually under-reported, as it specifically excludes non-market activity. But other measures of wealth/production, yes.

I’m actually slightly kicking myself for not spotting it as I wrote. Put it down to the perils of letting amateurs write about economics.

Zoran Lazarevic writes:

Americans get leisure time in after-work evening chunks, while Europeans get long vacations. IMHO, leisure chopped up into small chunks is not nearly as valuable as taking a week off to travel.

Think about having to give up your two weeks of vacation in exchange for reducing your work day by 12 minutes. Which would you prefer?

No wonder we envy Europe's working class!

On the other hand, we in the US set our own vacation time through negotiations with employer. Travelling for more than two weeks a year is too expensive for us, so we ask for only two weeks of vacation.

spencer writes:

I'm asking a question, not trying to be difficult.

But, isn't this whole thing a matter of double counting.

Americans are better, wealthier, have a higher per capita gdp, however you want to define it.
No one denies that.

So if you use some of that greater income to purchase service rather then using your free time to do them all you are counting is a way in which the greater wealth is spent. If I use the greater income to purchase a better made suit, I am not wealthier because I have a better suit. Because I have a higher income than I did 30 years ago I can hire someone to mow my yard. But if you count the time I now spend playing golf rather then mowing my yard aren't you just double counting. The greater purchase of services is just a way the greater income is spent, not a second source of wealth.

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