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Report – The Middle Class Time Squeeze

Brookings: “This paper – The Middle Class Time Squeeze, first traces the historical evolution of working time in the U.S. and how we compare to other high-income countries. We document that over the long term, hours of work have declined in most advanced countries, but in recent decades, the U.S. stands out as a country where that decline has ceased and where, as a result, Americans work far more than those in other rich countries. We then turn to what we call “the middle-class time squeeze.” That squeeze has been wrought mainly by the failure of many policies and practices surrounding work and family life to adapt to the rising need for families to have a second earner. In response to these developments, we suggest a number of new policies:

  • Reductions in the standard work week or work year
  • More paid leave
  • Mid-career breaks for family care or life-long learning
  • Later retirement
  • Subsidized childcare
  • Better alignment of school and work hours
  • More telecommuting and investments in transit infrastructure

These policy adjustments would be responsive to the many changes that have occurred over the last half century: greater affluence making more leisure affordable, changes in women’s roles requiring new ways to balance market work and work in the home, deindustrialization requiring more midcareer retraining, rising longevity enabling later retirement, and greater lifetime inequality in income and time that can be addressed in part by a reformed social insurance system…”

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