Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Productivity of Working Hours

John Pencavel, "The Productivity of Working Hours" forthcoming in The Economic Journal. (Online version, before publication in an issue, is now available for those with subscription or library access)
ABSTRACT: Observations on munition workers, most of them women, are organised to examine the relationship between their output and their working hours. The relationship is non-linear: below an hour’s threshold, output is proportional to hours; above a threshold, output rises at a decreasing rate as hours increase. Implications of this finding for the estimation of labour supply functions are considered. The findings also link up with the current research on the effects of long working hours on accidents and injuries.
An earlier version is also available as Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) discussion paper.

UPDATE: Also featured on The Economist's Free Exchange blog on December 9th: "Proof that you should get a life."


run75441 said...


Thank you for posting this study. I do throughput analysis from time to time for brownfield installations. Having this type of information is also valuable in assessing what improvements can be critical to maximizing throughput or flow of components.

Unfortunately, clamouring for work hour reduction at the same weekly rate is difficult at best even with proving the amount of direct labor content in the manufacture of a product or component is the smallest element. People refuse to hear the logic of it.

I will certainly use the study to make my point.

Sandwichman said...

You're very welcome, Bill. Regarding the refusal to hear the logic of it, Pencavel cites J.R. Hicks's observation (also cited earlier by me) that "probably it has never entered the heads of most employers that it was at all conceivable that hours could be shortened and output maintained. But it is clear that there were a few who had realised it.”

run75441 said...


You need to drop some book titles. I am very much hands on in approach as I deal with many cement heads in my endeavors.