‘9 to 5’ Lie
It is now the consensus among anthropologists, historians, sociologists and really old people that early hunter-gatherer societies, enjoyed more leisure time (if you consider ‘avoid-being-eaten-by-a-tiger’ as leisure) than we do today. Actually, it wasn’t until the late 19th century with the arrival of the industrial age that we, as an (arguably) intelligent race started going to some boring dead end underpaying job that we don’t really like, getting up when we don’t really want to, only to get stuck in traffic behind carriages and horses, trying not to step on horse shit and make a mess of those ridiculously looking 19th century pants of ours.
Today most of us (mainly in the western world) have what we call a ‘day job’, for lack of better words a ‘day job’ equals quota, and I don’t mean a quota in productivity terms (we’ll get to that later), I mean a time quota: you have to reach a certain amount of hours in order to get paid, or keep your job for that matter. And now comes the one million dollar question (more like minimum wage question) How many of you day jobbers out there can actually say you work the entire time you’re at your job? (not including the DMV and maybe Sara Netanyahu’s surviving servants).
Most of you day jobbers sit at work and do everything BUT work. This varies from an hour of “ill read news and surf the web” followed by 2 hours of further surfing and running some chats on whatsapp. Or some may choose to play candy crush. At this point I may choose to go for a 20 minute toilet run and a long coffee break. Then 3 to 4 hours later I say “fuck candy crush I’m gonna take a nap in the bathroom, or better yet: build a sleeping shelf under my office table!”.
In Israel 18% of the working population is classified as working long hours, more than 50 hours per week according to the OECD Better life index (compared to the OECD average of 9%). In fact, Israel holds the dubious honor of being 6th from the last in the OECD Work-Life balance category, only surpassing countries such as Chile, Korea, Japan, Mexico and last place Turkey. The truly unbelievable fact is that in the OECD 2011 study Israel ranked 32 out of 33 in work productivity per hour. Workers in Holland, the country with the least number of working hours: a measly 1379 yearly hours – compared to Israel’s whopping and depressing number of 1929 hours, actually generated TWICE* as much output as their Israeli counterparts at 30% fewer working hours!
To translate: we work like dogs, but it’s more like a 3 legged shepherd dog who can’t tell a sheep from a rock.
Now I know what you’re saying, we have a lot of ‘special’ populations who do not contribute to the great economy that we are today. But remember, I’m talking about working people, not those guys who sit in the Knesset. In addition to simply being a bitch, evidence suggests that long working hours may also impair personal health, jeopardize safety and increase stress. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that working more actually equals less production.
However, we need to take into account that Israel is a ‘hi-tech’ country. Just this past year Israel made a whopping 1.3 billion shekels in tax revenue from the ‘Waze’ transaction alone. In fact, a small percentage of the population is in fact responsible for a huge contribution to productivity. Therefore it is not valid to claim that we are a banana republic or that most of the jobs are low-tech, low-productivity jobs.
We are so caught up in the ‘9 to 5’ paradigm (more like 9 to 6 here in Israel) that we have become completely blind to logic and common sense, we just take it.
We take the bullshit of staying in the office even though we finished work 3 hours ago (or could have finished it in a few hours rather than a full day). We play the same idiotic and childish game of staying late after your boss, taking a few more minutes so that you won’t accidentally meet him in the parking lot and get ‘caught’ in the act of wanting to have a life, rather than wasting them on idly sitting watching retarded cats videos on youtube.
We take it because we want to keep our jobs. We take it because that’s the reality in most of the work places here, and in most parts of the western world. We take it because we think we have no choice.
Moving into shorter work days means that employers will pay the same salary for less amount of time. So, if you make for example a salary of 8000 shekels working 186 monthly hours (the customary work hours for a full time job in Israel), that translates into 44 shekels per hour (We’ll exclude taxes and bonuses etc’). Dropping the number of hours 160 hours means that your boss will now pay you 50 shekels per hour.
If you look at it from the employer’s point of view, the logic is quite simple, why should he have any motivation paying you more for seemingly less work? The answer is clear as we can see in countries like Holland and Denmark. This has nothing to do with Israel’s state of security (or lack of it), or its giant security budget. It has nothing to do with non working populations. If I work 9 hours a day to ‘cover’ for members of the non working population, while contributing X to the GDP but doing actual 7 hours worth of work, then those 2 extra hours are lost time. This is an illusion in terms of work, A fake, A mirage, A useless waste of precious time that could be spent with family, friends or your X-box. So now you’re probably wondering what could we- the small people- do.
In his 1931 essay “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren” one of the most notable economists of the 20th century, John Maynard Keynes, wrote that by the 21st century, the GDP per person will be 4 to 8 times the amount it was back in his day. That would allow us to work 3 hours a day, or 15 hours per week. Poor and naïve Keynes thought that capitalism was just a middle phase in history. After years of accumulating wealth aided by huge progress in technology, we humans will be left with a lot more leisure time to take selfies around the world and watch stupid reality shows on TV. Basically, Keynes’s theory was right. Products in the industrialized countries did multiply by 4 in the years 1930-2000 but sadly Keynes did not foresee the social and economic inequality that came with it, nor did he foresee the meteoric rise of the consumption phenomena. We just can’t get enough stuff.
A few weeks ago history was made in France, and no- I don’t mean they got conquered again. Two French unions, mainly engineering and consulting companies, pushed an agreement between themselves and a federation of their employers. The agreement recognized the employees right to turn off or ignore their work phones and e-mails after working hours. That’s right, no more replying to your boss’s e-mail at 1:00 at night. This agreement was an amendment to another agreement signed in 1999 that limited work hours in France to 35 weekly hours. Such a number that we in Israel could only dream of.
In 1971 John Lennon wrote ‘Power to the people’, Singing:
“You want a revolution
We better get on right away
Well you get on your feet
And out on the street”
The summer events of 2011 with the great ‘tent protest’ against the widening economic and social inequality left the Israeli public indifferent, almost apathetic to its objectives and sadly enough- to its fate. It appears that such big protests count for nothing, when the establishment ignores and pisses on the heads of its civilians, calling it rain.
It seems that unions in Israel are not so powerful or united. Every time the port workers, railway workers, teachers union, social workers and doctors strike each union fights for its own interests. This make sense since each union has a different agenda and work terms, but I bet that if all of those great unions combined forces and worked for the greater good, things would have looked a lot different from the work-life balance perspective here in Israel.
Now if you’ll excuse me I think my boss just left so I can finally go home and play my X-box.
Born and raised in Israel, I attained my Bachelor’s degree at business management back in 2010 and worked at the local high tech industry for a short while until I realized that I forgot how to have fun. I then moved to the great city of Tel-Aviv where I’ve been living for the past 4 years, bar-tending in various Pubs, getting people ridiculously drunk and then planting subversive ideas in their heads.
Recently, I decided to leave my bar-tending days behind me and jump back into the ‘real’ world in the hopes of finding a more meaningful ‘grown-up’ job, all the while trying to think outside of the box, ask significant questions and undermine conventional and long held job related paradigms.
‘9 to 5’ Lie
*OECD GDP per hour worked 2011
‘9 to 5’ Lie