Why the UK is working too hard

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How is it possible that we never seem to get a moment to ourselves, and yet at the same time the disposable cash we have in order to enjoy our rare spare time is dwindling to nothing?

Of course the rising cost of living holds some of the blame, but there's a fundamental issue that lies at the heart of the problem - every day we spend almost as long doing unpaid work as we do on paid work. So what's going on, and how do we compare with the rest of the world?


Too much unpaid work
Apparently we work on average roughly four and a half hours a day - which takes in everyone who doesn't work as well as those putting in a ten hour day. But the real issue is that on top of that, we put in another four hours in unpaid work.

The lion's share of this is housework - which goes some way to explaining why women do so much more of this unpaid work than men. We also spend a lot of time cooking and shopping - the average person in the OECD spends 23 minutes a day - which also explains where all that money is going.

We are far from the worst off in the world: Mexicans do three hours of housework a day - which is mind-boggling, while Turks spend about an hour and a quarter every day cooking - which is surely just overkill.

Meanwhile, at the skiving end of the spectrum, Belgians work just seven hours a day - evenly split between paid and unpaid work, Koreans do the least housework and the least shopping, and Americans spend the least time cooking - at about 30 minutes a day.

The only way in which the UK stands out is that we do far more charity work and helping other people than elsewhere in the world. However, before we start to feel too good about ourselves it's worth pointing out that in order to answer yes to the question of whether you helped society, you could have done something as simple as give someone directions when they were looking a bit lost.

What can we do about it?
So what can we do in order to have more free time and more cash? There is one country we don't want to follow here. In Mexico, the working day is about three hours longer than elsewhere - which is made up of an hour a day of paid work and two hours unpaid.

The answer may be to take a leaf out of the Korean book - as they spend least time on unpaid work, which gives them a couple of hours a day longer in paid work than the Belgians - while only putting in a marginally longer working day.

The art here is knowing when to stop - realising when you have done enough shopping and cooking and cleaning. You can cut corners and eat 4 minute pasta, order your groceries online, and get yourself a better hoover - none will leave you hungry, dirty or under-stocked, and all will give you more time either to earn more money or just to put your feet up.

Alternatively we could follow the Japanese. They work for about an hour a day longer than we do - but it's all made up of paid work - so at least they have the cash to enjoy their spare time.

But what do you think? Which working day most appeals to you? Let us know in the comments.

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