In the saltmines
There's been a lot of talk lately about the end of the 40-hour week, given the startlingly high numbers of people in this country working long hours. I thought it would be interesting to see where these busy bees were, so I started by looking at the census figures for Wellington to see if there were any patterns. Here's a map showing the proportion of employed people working more than 50 hours per week in their main job:
Actually, it's hard to discern any patterns. There's a hint that there are more hard workers in the affluent suburbs, which could be used by the well-off to justify their success as the result of good old-fashioned hard yakka. On the other hand, since this is just for one's "main job", it might hide a lot of poorer people struggling through an assortment of part-time jobs.
It looks as if I've made a bad choice of colour palette for that map, since very few meshblocks are up in the 50%+ bracket, so everything gets lumped down in the dark reds. But the choice was based on national data distributions, and if we zoom out we can see that there are indeed large areas that are humming with bright red activity:
But not in the cities! Contrary to the cliché about highly stressed corporate office workers, it seems that New Zealand's hardest workers are in rural areas. This leads one to suspect that perhaps it's all those farmers, up at the crack of dawn to milk cows and not resting until the fences are fixed, who are skewing our national figures. The multi-dimensional Census data isn't out for 2006 yet, but here's a breakdown of working hours by industry from 2001:
As you can see (if you click on the graph for a larger version), agriculture and mining do indeed dominate the figures for long hours. The Transport and Storage industry also stands out, and much of that might be associated with the rural sector too.
So, what does this suggest? Firstly, perhaps New Zealand's reputation of having the longest working hours in the world is mostly due to our largely agricultural economy, and that legislation aimed at giving us office drones a bit more time off won't actually change anything at all. I'm surprised that this hasn't been mentioned in any of the discussion in the media. Secondly, forget all that nonsense about escaping the rat race for a quiet life in the country: if you want to chill out, move in to the city!