OPINION

Living to work or working to live?

After so many years, we still haven’t figured out whether we are working to live or living to work. And this applies to virtually all European countries, from the excessive Britain, where the weekly working timetable can stretch to 78 hours, to the less extreme Greece, where we put up a brave fight to stop labor laws from changing in accordance with European legislation. Despite these protests, we are all aware – employers and employees alike – that the EU maximum of 48 working hours per week is being systematically violated in this country and across a range of sectors. And this happens despite the widespread notion in our society that the wealth being produced today – significantly larger than that of 70 years ago – affords employers and workers greater enjoyment of the fruits of their labor – both in terms of material reward and in terms of their free time. As we all know, the reality is very different. All we have to do is take a look around us and see how difficult it is to find a friend or acquaintance who works less than the established eight-hour day. I remember how my father used to urge us to study so that we could secure a good job, certain that working conditions could only improve and offer us more opportunities to enjoy life. But it seems that the reverse has occurred. After all, what has been the progress on a personal and familial level? Most of us do not have so much free time to socialize and relax, and those of us with families seem to struggle to spend quality time with our spouses and children. All we have achieved, it seems, is a boost in our consumption levels, which simply creates more and more artificial «needs» while we mortgage the real joys in life. At the same time, however, we are fueling our modern system of «growth» and «progress» – a system which feeds upon armies of working consumers who can never satisfy the «needs» created by this imposed standard of life. And in order to maintain increasingly large growth rates, this system not only dictates the wasteful use of natural resources, destruction of the environment and wide-scale production, which demands consumption, but also needs workers whose salaries continue to dwindle in relation to the amount they spend on consumption. It seems that we have become cogs in a well-oiled system, whose rules we are powerless to control. And so, it seems, we are living to work after all.