More Americans Would Take A Pay Cut For A Day Off

"Our workplaces are still not designed for people to get the hours they prefer."
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has talked about overworked and underpaid Americans on the campaign
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has talked about overworked and underpaid Americans on the campaign trail.


WASHINGTON -- One in five Americans would trade a day's pay for a day off, according to the latest edition of HuffPost/YouGov's annual poll on the issue.

The vast majority of Americans wouldn't mind spending less time at their jobs -- 76 percent say they'd work one fewer day per week if they didn't have to sacrifice any income. Twenty percent, though, said they'd be willing to take a proportionate pay cut as well.

In other words, 20 percent of Americans favor something like a permanent three-day weekend -- 20 percent less work for 20 percent less pay. That unmet demand for shorter hours is an economic problem economists call overemployment.

"Overemployment suggests that people have scarcity of time, are dealing with time pressure and are willing to sacrifice income to deal with that time pressure," Lonnie Golden, an economics professor at Penn State Abington who has studied overemployment, told HuffPost in an interview. 

HuffPost has tracked the overemployment rate for three years. The newest results mark a slight uptick since last year, when Americans were 7 points more likely to dismiss the idea of working less and making less.

Golden said he was surprised the overemployment rate ticked up in the poll, but offered two possible explanations.

"One is that the economy is getting stronger, the labor market's getting stronger, and there's probably a greater workload if not just hours of work," Golden said. "Two, our workplaces are still not designed for people to get the hours they prefer."

A big reason companies don't cater to workers' time needs is that workers don't have much power. Though the national unemployment rate has fallen to 5.3 percent, wage growth in the second quarter of this year saw its slowest pace on record. 

"A lot of employees don't yet have the bargaining leverage to say, 'I'm adjusting downward by 20 percent,'" Golden said. 

On the flip side, while just 15 percent of Americans would be willing to work more without extra pay, nearly half said they'd be willing to take on an extra day of work in exchange for a 20 percent raise. That tradeoff was most appealing to those with lower incomes: Fifty-four percent of Americans in households making under $40,000 a year said they would work the extra day, compared to just 37 percent of those making more than $80,000.



Golden said the disparity between income groups suggests salaried workers, who aren't paid by the hour, have more to gain from shorter hours than hourly workers, whose best shot at higher incomes comes from more time on the job.

HuffPost readers: Would you work 20 percent less for 20 percent less pay if you had the option? Tell us about it -- email arthur@huffingtonpost.com. Please include your phone number if you're willing to be interviewed. 

The average American workweek stands at 42.5 hours for full-time workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Factoring part-time workers puts the average workweek at 38.6 hours. 

Shorter hours were the foremost demand of the labor movement up until the Great Depression, which spurred Congress to pass the Fair Labor Standards Act. The landmark law requires employers to pay extra if their workers labor more than 40 hours per week.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is the only big-time politician to take up the shorter-hours cause of late

"A hundred years ago workers took to the streets" to fight for 40 hours, Sanders told HuffPost in June. "And a hundred years have come and gone, we’ve seen an explosion in technology, we’ve seen an explosion in productivity, we have a great global economy, and what do you have? The vast majority of people are working longer hours for lower wages."

 The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted July 24-27 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here. More details on the polls' methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov's reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample, rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.