Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sunday dollars+sense: Short working hours kill men's marriages, not long ones.

A couple of weeks back I mentioned that we are not working the long hours that we used to. Whereas in the late 1990s around one in five of us worked more than 50 hours a week, it’s now down to one in six.

Whereas in 2002, 8 per cent of all jobs were held by people working more than 60 hours a week now just 0.3 per cent of the new jobs are like that.

So our family lives are improving, right?

That’s what you’d think...

Everyone knows that long working hours kill family life and kill families.

That’s what Professor Mark Wooden expected to find when he tracked what had happened to people who worked extremely long hours as part of the household income and labour dynamics project at the Melbourne Institute.

Entitled Long Working Hours And Its Consequences For Marriage, his study found that there weren’t any, or at least none that he could find. The average annual divorce rate among men who worked more than 50 hours a week was 1.7 per cent, the same as for men who worked standard hours. Moreover, they and their partners seemed to be about as satisfied with their marriages.

What he did find was unexpected, and much more significant.

The men who worked part-time (less than 35 hours a week) were far more likely to get divorced. These part-time workers had an average annual divorce rate of 2.7 per cent, almost double that of the men who worked standard or long hours.

For men and for their relationships, there appears to be something far worse than working excessive hours – and it is not working enough hours.

For women it is different. For married women, long hours rather than short ones seem to lead to marriage breakdowns – interestingly by about as much as do short ones for men, although Professor Wooden cautions that there weren’t enough women in his survey working long hours to be sure.

Professor Wooden says it looks as if for men full-time work is an important part of their identity. They need to have somewhere to go in the day in order to feel okay. For women, it is an optional extra.

Many of them have too much to do around the house.

Mark Wooden, Long Working Hours And Its Consequences For Marriage, Melbourne Institute, June 2007