Thursday, July 12, 2007


The Work-Life Dilemma

Here is a meditation on the "work-life balance" from an Australian newspaper. Apparently, even down-under work is consuming more and more of a person's time. The article notes that "globalisation and technology have created the syndrome of 24/7 availability" in which, implicitly, young married couples go to bed with their Blackberrys as much as with each other. And most young people in Australia aren't even married. 75 percent of Australian women work, the same proportion of Australians under 35 have never been married, and 23 percent of all households have only one person. Is it because they are so busy or because young Australians, like so many young American college graduates, have huge loans to pay off and can't afford to get married? The article doesn't say.

The article cites, as an example of what to expect among elite earners in Australia, the "extreme workers" of the United States. Two million "high-income earners" in America are "required" to put in more than 70 hours a week at their jobs and two thirds said "their jobs required them to be available to deal with emergencies at any time." 58 percent said their work interfered with their lives as parents, 46 percent said "it hurt their relationships", and half said their jobs had destroyed their sex lives. Yet, according to the article, "strangely, they claim to be happy." According to the study, two thirds loved their jobs - including three quarters of those who worked for "global companies".

These people feel "exalted" by their work. "Many people love the intellectual challenge and the thrill of achieving something big. Others are turned on by the oversize compensation packages, brilliant colleagues, and recognition and respect that come with the territory." Obviously, these people are a kind of new priesthood - and nearly as celibate as priests and nuns to boot, it seems. This week - in Australia - "a group of academics at the Work and Family Policy Roundtable recommended that all fathers receive two weeks' paternity leave," but the Workplace Minister (what a title!) warned not to legislate this, and to leave it up to companies themselves to institute it. But of course they won't. "Studies and anecdotal evidence suggest choosing flexi-time and part-time work can damage career prospects, even more so for men because the perception is there is something wrong with them."

The current generation worldwide is one of corporate warriors, of templars at prayer in the churches of finance. Apparently, even family will be sacrificed at the altar of this crusade.

"Work-life balance rides the see-saw" from The Age (Australia)

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