Unimaginative leisure time Inability to make use of leisure time Excess leisure time arising from automation
Trends in industrialized countries to less work time, coupled with longer life spans, have led to a dramatic increase in leisure hours over the average life time. The number of annual working hours has virtually halved in 150 years, from around 3,000 per annum in 1850 to around 1500 per annum in 1990. Where automation continues to expand along the present lines, expectations for the foreseeable future are that there will be a 30 hour working week for a total of 40 working weeks, that is, 1200 working hours per annum. Extended education (over a longer period that at present) and early retirement by definition result in reducing the number of professionally active years. This number can be set on average at 35 years. If one multiplies the figures given above, that is 35 years times 40 working weeks times 30 working hours, the result is that in future man will only devote some 40,000 hours of his life to productive work. Since man - statistically speaking at least - has some 700,000 hours to live, this implies that in the near future the time spent on productive or gainful employment will only amount to 6% of his total life span. Free time - once ranking third in the list of items composing our daily schedule, the first being the time spent working and the second the time devoted to sleep - will then move to the top of the list. The time to be spent working and sleeping will become short in relation to the excessive amount of time to be used as one pleases. In fact, the ration between work and leisure has been inverted. Whereas during the 19th century there were fewer than 8 hours of leisure daily, this figure has now been almost doubled, and will probably be trebled in the future, judging by the experience of the USA. Hence the problem of leisure has now become qualitative rather than quantitative: the newest social problem of the industrial world, unprepared to cope with so much non-productive, free time.
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