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Longer Hours Spent Working Don’t Mean More Cash

“At one time farmers could work one job – farming – while today they are working several.”

You work longer hours, you make more money, right? A new study by Statistics Canada finds, in some cases, the reverse is true.

Families with parents working longer than a 40-hour week, surprisingly, earn less than those working a standard work week, says Family Work Patterns released in August.

The study doesn’t examine the reason for the difference in any depth, but says one possible explanation is that those parents with longer hours tend to be self-employed workers with lower earnings.

The study also finds having kids doesn’t mean earning less money. Families with kids had average incomes of $73,600 in 2007, only slightly less than those without children.

But families with kids do work longer hours – 200 a year more on average.

The study reports on changes in work patterns in Canadian households between 1996 and 2007, examining 8,800 (two-adult) families, including those with and without children.

The study finds Canadian families are concentrated into several types of work patterns.

About 43 per cent have one adult working less than a 40-hour work week, and one adult working a standard week, or more. In those households, about 3,100 hours a year are spent working.

Fourteen per cent of households had both adults working full-time work schedules for a total of 3,900 hours worked a year.

Another 15 per cent fell into a work-intensive category, with one adult working longer than a 40-hour week, the other working at least a standard work week. These families can spend as many as 4,400 hours or more a year working.

At the other end of the spectrum, nine per cent of households had one adult not working at all, and the other working a regular 40-hour week or more. Those households logged anywhere from 1,900 to 2,500 hours a year of work.

Not surprisingly, the impact on households with adults working the longest hours is much higher levels of stress, the study noted.

Janet Smith, manager of Manitoba’s Farm and Rural Stress Line, based in Brandon, sees the farm family household easily fitting the long-hours work pattern described in this study. The need to earn off-farm income has added many extra hours to the workload carried today, and by the husband, wife and even farm family children, Smith said.

“At one time farmers could work one job – farming – while today they are working several,” she said.

And it all adds to higher stress levels and less time left over for everything else in life.

One of the stress line team’s most popular workshops these days is one that helps farm families explore ways to achieve more of a balance between the demands of all that work and their lives, Smith added.

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About the author

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Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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