Is work the be all and end all of success?
… speaking to Times columnist Danny Finkelstein at a fringe meeting at the Conservative conference, Mr Hunt [Health Secretary] said: …
“My wife is Chinese and if we want this to be one of the most successful countries in the world in 20, 30, 40 years time there is a pretty difficult question that we have to answer which is, essentially, are we going to be a country which is prepared to work hard in a way that Asian economies are prepared to work hard, in a way that Americans are prepared to work hard?
“And that is about creating a culture where work is at the heart of our success.”
BBC News Website, 12 October 2015 : Tax credit cuts promote hard work, says Jeremy Hunt
This all depends on how you measure success and what you are prepared to do to achieve it.
Should “work” be the “heart of our success” or a means to achieve success? Or is success about something other than “work”?
I think it is politically unwise of the Health Secretary to draw the above comparisons. The two countries have a culture of if not hard work of long hours. I suspect that we have a productivity problem rather than a desire not to work.
China has a reputation for very cheap manufacturing where working conditions can be appalling. the introduction of such a working culture would not count as “success” to me.
Americans have a reputation for working long hours and taking very little holiday – often taking less than two weeks a year. A life with only two weeks holiday a year would not seem like success to me.
(Should I not generalise from single perceptions of nations to an overall view of entire nations? Well, Hunt is generalising from a few work-shy people to say that the British do not work hard.)
I know that I have over-worked to the detriment of both my health and of relationships. I know that when I was over-working (typically 50-60 hour weeks and not taking my four weeks of holiday entitlement), I was less creative and less efficient. I look back on a couple of decades when I did very little but work. I do not think I am unusual. I also think we have a sick society if it is not possible to support yourself on 40 hours a week of work and take four weeks a year away from work.
The implication of this might be that I would trade income for a better life style. The corollary of wanting to trade income (down) but also wanting to see the maintenance of state institutions like the NHS, is that my rate of tax will have to go up.
I think I would prefer to “work smarter” than “work longer”, but if working smarter does not financially compensate for not working longer, so be it.