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Less Pay, More Weekend? Some Americans Are Ready To Say Yes

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WASHINGTON -- Four years into the economic recovery, HuffPost's measure of America's overemployment rate stands tall at 16 percent.

In a new poll by The Huffington Post and YouGov, 16 percent of working Americans said they would trade 20 percent less pay for 20 percent less work. In other words, about 23 million people would take a proportionate pay cut in exchange for a three-day weekend.

In a HuffPost/YouGov poll conducted a year ago, 18 percent of working Americans said they would take a pay cut in exchange for an extra day off. The difference is within the two surveys' margins of error.

According to the latest poll, 13 percent of full-time workers would give up one-fifth of their pay in exchange for an extra day off. Among part-time workers, the percentage was even higher, with 25 percent willing to take that deal.

Full-time workers spent an average of 42.6 hours per week on the job last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With part-time laborers included, the average workweek stood at 38.6 hours.

The American workweek has stood at about 40 hours since World War II, after having fallen steadily for the previous century. Labor activists had once demanded more time off, arguing that it would make workers' lives easier and that it would reduce unemployment. Those demands fizzled after the Fair Labor Standards Act pegged the standard workweek at 40 hours in 1938.

Today it's rare for politicians to cheer for shorter hours. When the Congressional Budget Office reported that the Affordable Care Act would let some workers toil less because they would no longer need an employer's health insurance policy, Republicans were outraged -- and Democrats grew defensive.

In the most recent HuffPost/YouGov poll, more money was still much more popular than more time off. In fact, 53 percent of working Americans, including 50 percent of full-time workers and 60 percent of part-time workers, said they would labor an additional day each week for 20 percent more pay.

The government's broadest measure of labor market underutilization, which includes the jobless and part-time workers who want more hours, puts the underemployment rate at 12.1 percent.

Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks a plethora of economic indicators, overemployment is not one of them. In 2001, a government survey found that 7 percent of Americans would work less for less money.

Lonnie Golden is an economics professor who has studied overemployment at Penn State Abington. "We just haven't considered seriously enough that overemployment is a solvable problem," Golden said. "It has its source in 'institutions' we take for granted, such as health insurance premiums being per employee rather than per hours worked."

The money being equal, the HuffPost/YouGov poll indicates American workers would rather work less than more. Only 9 percent said they would work an extra day each week without any change to their pay, while 85 percent would jump at the chance to work a day less if they could receive the same pay.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted July 22-23 among 1,000 U.S. adults using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here.

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Overemployment mismatches - Bureau of Labor Statistics