John Maynard Keynes, the great British economist, prophesied that by 2030 people in wealthy nations would work no more than 15 hours a week. It isn’t turning out that way.So Americans between 19 and 65 are working a lot more than Keynes thought. And one group in particular is working a lot more: mothers.
The average workweek for full-time American workers isn’t anywhere close to Keynes’s predictions. Current estimates are 34 to 47 hours, depending on what exactly is being measured and how part-time labor is treated.
But maybe he wasn't completely wrong:
If Keynes had been talking just about older people, he would have been closer to the mark, because older people do work much less than they did decades ago. Certainly, they work much less than younger people. According to one estimate, men over the age of 65 spend almost 43 percent more time on recreation than do men of prime working age. Over all, older men spend far more time than younger ones on reading, watching television and taking cruises, among other fun activities. Fewer than 20 percent of men over 65 are in the work force today. We tend to take this for granted, but it’s a radical contrast with 1880, when that figure was about 75 percent. . . .This is interesting. Keynes was right that our leisure would increase, but it is increasing at the beginning and end of our lives, not in the middle.
Teenagers are also ahead of Keynes’s workplace predictions. Several decades ago, about 55 percent of teenagers had jobs, but lately only about 35 percent do.
Is that the best way to distribute the work? If you were designing a society from scratch, would you set it up so that mothers with young children would work full time so that everybody could retire at 65 and teenagers could spend their weekends playing video games?
Seems rather puzzling to me.