Job Quality Indicators » Job Demands

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Long Hours of Work

The amount of time spent on the job is a common theme that underlies concerns over work-life balance, workload, "time crunch" and stress. Every hour spent at work is one less hour that can be spent with family or friends, or pursuing personal interests. Over the past 25 years, increasing numbers of Canadians have been spending more time on the job. This is ironic considering that 25 years ago there was much talk about how ‘automation’ was going to free us from work and create a ‘leisure society’.


50+ Hour Workweeks: A Steady Increase Since The Mid 1970s 

Source: Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey (2000).


As the chart above shows, the share of Canadian workers putting in 50 or more hours on their job during the week increased from 11 percent in 1976 to 14 percent in 2000. While this is not a huge jump, it certainly is moving us away from the ideal of a society in which we all have more leisure, or non-work time. Today, over two million Canadians work these long hours. Women are less likely to do so than men. There are various reasons for this, including the fact that women are more likely to work on a part-time basis and spend more time on unpaid work, such as childcare and other family responsibilities.


By Employment Type

50+ Hour Workweeks: Men Most Likely to Work Long Hours

Source: Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey (2000).


Long hours are especially common among self-employed workers – one-third of whom work 50 or more hours during the week, with self-employed men being twice as likely as self-employed women to work excessive hours. So, the independence that many self-employed people seek requires long workweeks. While self-employed workers generally report that they enjoy the control they exercise over their work, it is apparent that long hours are one trade-off they make for this.


By Occupation

50+ Hour Workweeks: Male Managers Most Likely to Work Long Hours

Source: Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey (2000).


50+ Hour Workweeks: Female Teachers Most Likely to Work Long Hours

Source: Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey (2000).

The likelihood of having to work long hours varies across occupations. Among men, long hours are most prevalent among managers, transportation and equipment operators (e.g. truck drivers), and workers in primary industries (e.g. fishers or loggers). Among women, teachers and professors, and managers, are most likely to put in long workweeks. These patterns mirror what our ‘unpaid overtime’ indicator shows.


By Province

50+ Hour Workweeks:
Men Most Likely to Work Long Hours in Alberta,
Least Likely To Do So in Quebec

Source: Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey (2000).


50+ Hour Workweeks:
Women Most Likely To Work Long Hours In Alberta,
Ontario, Least Likely To Do So in Quebec 

Source: Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey (2000).

The prevalence of long hours also varies considerably across provinces. Men and women are most likely to work long hours in Alberta and least likely to do so in Quebec. These regional differences are worth exploring. By drawing together other indicators, a composite picture can be created, and what emerges is a study in contrasts. In Alberta where long hours, much of it unpaid, are most common, so too are flexible schedules. In comparison long hours, overtime and flexible schedules are least common in Quebec. Are such differences a reflection of personal choices that reflect deep-seated work values, employers’ policies, or provincial employment standards or a reflection of the industrial makeup of the provinces? An interesting question to be sure. We don’t have an answer at this point, but would be interested in hearing your views.


By Outcomes

50+ Hour Workweeks:
Long Hours Associated With Heavy Workloads,
Bringing Work Home, And Decreased Work / Family Balance

Source: Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey (2000)
and CPRN - EKOS Changing Employment Relationships Survey (2000).

Compared with employees who work 30 to 39 hours during the week, employees who work 50 hours or more are almost twice as likely to say that they have difficulty keeping up with their work load. As a consequence of this burden, they are more than twice as likely to take their work home with them, and are almost three times more likely to feel that they are unable to balance their work and family responsibilities.


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