Myth 5: Workers in highly paid jobs work harder
It has been claimed that workers at the top end of the income scale work long hours and therefore ‘deserve’ higher earnings. There are several factors, however, that are not usually taken into consideration when calculating hours worked.
One of these factors is the fact that the poorest in our society are just as likely to work long hours in a main job and/or to take on multiple paid jobs. Many need to do so to make ends meet.73 Neither does this myth take account of the number of hours worked outside the market economy. It is often argued that providing care in a family setting should not be included in national accounts because production of services within households is a self-contained activity, with limited repercussions on the rest of the economy. This, as feminists and others have shown, is simply not true. As has been extensively documented elsewhere,74 the non-market economy (or the sphere of reproduction) is necessary for a more complete understanding of the market economy (the sphere of production).Without the reproduction of labour power on a daily and generational basis, productive activities would grind to a halt.
In this sense the inclusion of hours worked in the non-market economy for different income groups is crucial to the understanding of people’s contributions to the economy as a whole – both in the productive and reproductive spheres. Data from ONS’s Time Use Survey 2005 show that people at the bottom of the income scale spend, on average, 82 more minutes per day on ‘providing housework’ than their higher-income counterparts.
If these figures are disaggregated further, considerable differences arise between lower and higher income groups in providing certain types of housework, such as cooking and cleaning. In addition to this, data shows that lower-income groups provide 13 more minutes per day in childcare than higher income people do. Although the difference of care provided for adults is quite small, one could still argue that lower-income groups spend approximately 18 more minutes per day solely on care, which accounts for 8.4 extra hours of work per month. In summary, if we consider the impact of unpaid labour on paid labour, or even the interrelationships between them, we can certainly make the point that lower-income individuals work just as hard (or even harder) than their higher-income counterparts.
Err, the low paid have more leisure time than the highly paid. It\’s one of those things which the Time Use Surveys show. More leisure equals less work when you sum together market and non market production.