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Does Labor Legislation Benefit Workers? Well-Being after an Hours Reduction

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  • Daniel S. Hamermesh
  • Daiji Kawaguchi
  • Jungmin Lee

Abstract

Are workers in modern economies working "too hard"--would they be better off if an equilibrium with fewer work hours were achieved? We examine changes in life satisfaction of Japanese and Koreans over a period when hours of work were cut exogenously because employers suddenly faced an overtime penalty that had become effective with fewer weekly hours per worker. Using repeated cross sections we show that life satisfaction in both countries may have increased relatively among those workers most likely to have been affected by the legislation. The same finding is produced using Korean longitudinal data. In a household model estimated over the Korean cross-section data we find some weak evidence that a reduction in the husband's work hours increased his wife's well-being. Overall these results are consistent with the claim that legislated reductions in work hours can increase workers' happiness.

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  • Daniel S. Hamermesh & Daiji Kawaguchi & Jungmin Lee, 2014. "Does Labor Legislation Benefit Workers? Well-Being after an Hours Reduction," NBER Working Papers 20398, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20398
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    3. O'Donnell, Gus & Oswald, Andrew J., 2015. "National well-being policy and a weighted approach to human feelings," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 59-70.
    4. Berniell, Inés & Bietenbeck, Jan, 2020. "The effect of working hours on health," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 39(C).
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    6. Takahashi, Ana Maria, 2016. "Job stress in Japanese academia: The role of relative income, time allocation by task, and children," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 12-17.
    7. Dräger, Vanessa, 2015. "Do Employment Protection Reforms Affect Well-Being?," IZA Discussion Papers 9114, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    8. Jianbo Luo, 2020. "A Pecuniary Explanation for the Heterogeneous Effects of Unemployment on Happiness," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 21(7), pages 2603-2628, October.
    9. Joel Mokyr & Chris Vickers & Nicolas L. Ziebarth, 2015. "The History of Technological Anxiety and the Future of Economic Growth: Is This Time Different?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 29(3), pages 31-50, Summer.
    10. Hyunkuk Cho, 2017. "The Effects of Fathers’ Working Hours on Youth Behavior: Evidence from a Change in the Standard Workweek," Korean Economic Review, Korean Economic Association, vol. 33, pages 295-324.
    11. Cieplinski, André & D'Alessandro, Simone & Guarnieri, Pietro, 2021. "Environmental impacts of productivity-led working time reduction," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 179(C).
    12. Maurice Schiff, 2017. "Habit, prisoner's dilemma and Americans’ welfare cost of working much more than Europeans," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(9), pages 1708-1717, September.
    13. Charles C. Brown & Daniel S. Hamermesh, 2019. "Wages and Hours Laws: What Do We Know? What Can Be Done?," NBER Working Papers 25942, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Kamila Cygam-Rehm & Christoph Wunder, 2018. "Do Working Hours Affect Health? Evidence from Statutory Workweek Regulations in Germany," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 967, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    15. Fan, Haichao & Lin, Faqin & Lin, Shu, 2020. "The hidden cost of trade liberalization: Input tariff shocks and worker health in China," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 126(C).
    16. Gerritsen, Aart, 2016. "Optimal taxation when people do not maximize well-being," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 144(C), pages 122-139.
    17. Kamila Cygan-Rehm & Christoph Wunder, 2018. "Do Working Hours Affect Health? Evidence from Statutory Workweek Regulations in Germany," CESifo Working Paper Series 7098, CESifo.
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    JEL classification:

    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • J23 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Demand

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