Productivity and the New Work Ethic

April 19, 1972

Report Outline
Worry Over Lag in Worker Output
Factors in Growth of Productivity
Directions of Change in Work Scene
Special Focus

Worry Over Lag in Worker Output

Job Performance and America's Economic Ills

Economists have begun to identify poor productivity growth as the root cause of many other economic ills. They contend that the efficiency of American workers, if not actually declining, is at least not growing as fast as it was in the past or as fast as that of workers in other countries. Although productivity began lagging in the mid-Sixties, wages continued to go up. These are viewed as the major factors in America's persistant inflation and the failure of American goods to compete in foreign and domestic markets.

Furthermore, some economists believe that changes in the economy and in public attitudes toward jobs, the environment and technology may mean that future large-scale increases in productivity will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. Of particular concern is that a new work ethic is taking hold, especially among young workers. This implies the rejection of such an ingrained national ideal as hard work being its own reward. There is fear that the United States might have to resign itself permanently to a lower standard of living, with all the social, political and economic implications it would entail.

The “productivity crisis” theory is highly speculative and many, perhaps most, economists believe the way can be found to maintain the traditional growth of American efficiency. If workers are now disenchanted with their jobs and no longer idealize hard work, it is argued, then job-enrichment programs, technological advances and shorter workweeks might lessen the impact of that trend. Systems analysis and sophisticated managerial techniques might be brought to bear on such service industries as retailing, education and government to make them more efficient. It is also argued that the high productivity increases in other countries will eventually tail off and that American goods will consequently become competitive again.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Work Week
Jun. 12, 1987  Part-Time Work
Feb. 28, 1973  Leisure Business
Apr. 19, 1972  Productivity and the New Work Ethic
Aug. 11, 1971  Four-Day Week
Dec. 09, 1964  Leisure in the Great Society
Jun. 13, 1962  Shorter Hours of Work
Feb. 17, 1960  Sunday Selling
May 08, 1957  Four-Day Week
Dec. 03, 1954  Shorter Work Week
Mar. 05, 1948  Hours of Work and Full Production
Jul. 05, 1944  Hours of Work After the War
Nov. 16, 1942  Hours of Work in Wartime
Jan. 17, 1936  The Thirty-Hour Week
Mar. 10, 1932  The Five-Day Week and the Six-Hour Day
May 23, 1929  The Five-Day Week in Industry
Economic Analyses, Forecasts, and Statistics
Labor Standards and Practices