General Article Why are we so obsessed with 'hard work'?

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Countries such as Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands have demonstrated that it is possible to have significantly shorter average hours, and have arguably fared better during economic recession. People living in countries with shorter average working hours also tend to report higher levels of life satisfaction and lower levels of stress, with the ‘ideal’ working week lying somewhere between 25 and 30 hours, according to the results of a recent Europe-wide survey.

Many have commented on the persistent use of the phrase ‘hardworking’ and especially ‘hard-working families’ in British politics. This week I enjoyed reading Alex Andreou’s discussion of the ‘mythic’ hardworker. Poking fun, Andreou, who runs Sturdy Beggars Theatre Company, describes how it feels to admit, ‘to myself and to the world: I am not naturally hardworking. (Cue hissing from the crowd, ladies fainting, shouts of “monster”.)’

Look more closely at the image of heroic hardworkers: holding down more than one low-inco...

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