An Economist's Take on Work-life Balance

Robinson, Timothy J. (2007) An Economist's Take on Work-life Balance. In Blacklow, P. (Ed.) 36th Australian Conference of Economists 2007 (ACE07), 24 - 26 September, 2007, Hobart, Tasmania.


Increasing incidence of paid work in Australia and many other countries is often seen as severely compromising work-life balance. This paper examines whether, contrary to popular belief, increasing devotion of time to paid work might, from an economic perspective, be explained as a rational, welfare increasing response to changes in independent variables that affect the work, leisure trade off. More importantly, however, it is argued that even if increases in paid work hours can be explained as resulting from attempts to maximize well-being, the absolute level of work effort at any time will be excessive as compared to the optimal or 'right' level of work. The paper shows that when quality of life is reduced as a result of negative externalities resulting from factors such as environmental degradation and congestion, individuals are encouraged to work longer hours to compensate for this reduction. These longer hours of work aggravate environmental damage and congestion resulting in further increases in compensatory work effort. Thus there is a vicious circle of overwork and over consumption. Furthermore, no individual can gain by unilaterally reducing their work effort since any such reduction will have no perceptible effect on the quality of life they experience. Only on the basis of government intervention of some sort can the market failure that causes excessive work effort and loss of work life balance be corrected.

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ID Code: 15710
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
ISBN: 9780959337013
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > ECONOMICS (140000) > APPLIED ECONOMICS (140200) > Environment and Resource Economics (140205)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > ECONOMICS (140000) > APPLIED ECONOMICS (140200) > Labour Economics (140211)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2007 (please consult author)
Deposited On: 24 Nov 2008 00:00
Last Modified: 23 Dec 2014 05:40

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