Men in their prime are turning away from good money and high-pressure jobs by working fewer hours

The Great Resignation, shutting down and a looming recession have caused major changes in the workforce. First, workers quit en masse due to pandemic-induced burnout. Subsequently, some of those who remained at work quietly began doing the minimum work required.

And more recently there have been mass layoffs. The job losses that started in the second half of 2022 have spilled over into 2023 and threaten workers in a number of sectors, particularly in the technology sector.

The latest trend is for young men with at least a bachelor’s degree to work fewer hours, a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found earlier this month. Between 2019 and 2022, they spent an average of 14 hours less at work each year.

Over the same period, the decrease was much less for women with similar qualifications, who worked three hours less.

“The pandemic may have motivated people to re-evaluate their life priorities and also made them accustomed to more flexible work arrangements (e.g. working from home), leading them to choose to work fewer hours, especially if they can afford it,” says the pandemic . report said.

The desire for a good work-life balance, according to the report, can manifest itself in quiet retirement, where employees merely stay at work instead of putting in a lot of effort.

Working less can also translate into less risk of burnout and more time for hobbies and interests outside of work.

Hours worked also fell by an average of eight hours per year for men who had some form of college education, even if they had not completed their degree.

Overall, people across all education categories worked an average of 11 fewer hours per year between 2019 and 2022, the study found.

The study authors argue that as the decline in working hours continued through 2022, it cannot be attributed solely to pandemic-related factors such as illness. During the height of the pandemic, many people who were ill had to take significant time off and therefore work fewer hours, but the unemployment trend continued last year as COVID had less of an impact.

The changes in working hours took place against the backdrop of a strong labor market, with unemployment at just 3.5% in December. It is unclear whether the low unemployment rate, and thus more job security, played a role in people working less.

Before the pandemic, the proportion of men in the labor force was also declining. In 2021, the labor force participation of men will be 67.5%, compared to almost 80% in 1970. This decline among men of the highest age (between 25 and 54 years) is caused by men leaving the labor force without a university education.

If more men who can afford to work fewer hours do so, it could have a big impact on productivity, says Yongseok Shin, one of the authors of the NBER paper. This, in turn, can affect business results.

“The US is a very exceptional country where people value work so much, and they idolize hard work, so they work so many hours compared to other European countries,” Shin said. Fortune earlier this month.

“We don’t know the future, but it looks like this is something that will really stick,” he said of the decrease in working hours.

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