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is logical to think that due to the lack of technological advancements people worked longer hours and a lot harder during the middle ages. Economist Juliet Shor found that during periods of particularly high wages, such as in 14th-century England, peasants might put in no more than 150 days a year. This does not only apply to farmers but many different professions as well as industries due to a simple social factor.

A society that valued time over money

Society during that period of time valued their time rather than the rat race for wealth. As long as everyone had something to eat and a roof over their heads, it was more than enough. Take into consideration that we are talking about a time when death was a lot more inevitable due to various diseases, the violent nature of society, and the lack of medical advancements.

Most people during that period of time even enjoyed an afternoon snooze, who has time for that now? It is true that life has become a lot more complex, but it is not the life that complicates things, but humans who chose to complicate it. Most things that occur in our lives are by choice as everyone chooses a certain lifestyle.

Another important factor is the balance of wealth equality. During the 12th century and even earlier, most people were considered poor and therefore everyone had respect for the next person as materialism did not quite exist during that era. Today, physical objects “define” the status of a person, but during those times it was the self-respect one had for himself by how the person spent their time and also their specific profession. This does not mean that it was a shame to be a farmer, on the contrary, it was quite good due to the barter system which was still in place for another few centuries.

Agricultural calendar from a manuscript of Pietro Crescenzi, written c. 1306 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Why do we work more in present times?

In the twenty-first century, the United States is the only advanced country that has no national vacation policy at all. Many Americans are required to work on official holidays, and vacation days are frequently underused. Even when we do take a vacation, many of us answer emails and “check in,” whether we’re camping with the kids or relaxing on the beach.

Some fault the American worker for not demanding her fair share. However, in an era of persistently high unemployment, job instability, and weak labor unions, employees may feel compelled to accept the conditions imposed by culture and individual employers. During those times, no one had the stress of lack of job security. Word of mouth was key to getting a job.

Rate Race Image by Brian Merrill from Pixabay 

Once again, the important factor here is that a good percentage of our society loves to run after money. We value our time on this Earth and the life we have been given less than money and other physical liabilities. If people were to work only to have enough to get by (those with more fortunate jobs) they would cut at least a third of their working time.

Economic crises provide austerity-minded politicians with an excuse to talk about reducing vacation time, raising the retirement age, and slashing social insurance programs and safety nets that were supposed to provide us with a better fate than working till we drop. But what is the point of having time free when you are old and lack any sort of energy to live life?

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