Wage Slavery – The Only Socially Acceptable Form of Modern Day Slavery

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Here we go again; this is a statistic from the national news:

“AUSTRALIANS are taking more work home than ever but aren’t getting paid overtime for the hours they put in outside of the office.
A new workplace survey (…) found that 58 per cent of Aussie workers admit they still check their work email and file reports when they are on holiday. More than a third of those workers get nothing for the longer hours they put in, and only 13 per cent get paid overtime rates for the extra work.”
And here’s another one:
“As much as you might hate the management team at your work, they are actually the most likely to get screwed over by the boss when it comes to putting in long hours outside the office. A massive 88 per cent of employers in the finance and accounting industry expected their senior managers to be on call, even if they were on annual leave.”
During my own multi-year stint as a litigation lawyer, I often felt the pressures of the modern day work society:
  • Competition is fierce, even within the law firm itself
  • Clients become more demanding
  • Stakes get higher
  • There are more ways to take people into legal battle, and I could become one of them if I don’t perform
  • The company has to make profit
  • I have to make a living
  • Bills and “accounts payable” stack up
  • Modern technology allows for 24/7 communication, so….. that includes me (the clients think).
  • And so on…..
and it is a “sneaky thing”: the more people allow themselves to be on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the more other people (read: employers) start considering this to be the norm for everyone else. The expectation forms that you SHOULD be available, because everyone else is.
To some degree, we all form part of this system (and not only in Australia!), either because you, too, think it is normal to be at your employer’s beck and call, or because you have pressing circumstances (bills, debts, whatever) that make it near impossible NOT to be like that.
In itself, there is nothing wrong with a work mentality like the one above. I know plenty of people that happily conform to it, and reap the rewards. Some of my fellow lawyers in the firm I worked for made long days and weekends. They didn’t really mind, as they could take time off later on, and generally were paid substantial amounts of money to be available. For them, the prize was worth the price.
Most of the workers that I know, though, don’t have these freedoms or perks, and form part of the above mentioned statistics. They merely feel like they are on a merry-go-round that they cannot get off. You’ll hear them talk about (amongst others) the long days, low pay, little appreciation, little respect, little choice, and low job satisfaction. They will talk about how they would like to have things differently, but are not able to change their situation. I hear this so often from my own clients, and from the job seekers I work with during my job search training work.
They have a term for this: WAGE SLAVERY. In 1791 already, liberal thinker Wilhelm von Humboldt explained how “whatever does not spring from a man’s free choice, or is only the result of instruction and guidance, does not enter into his very nature; he does not perform it with truly human energies, but merely with mechanical exactness”.
So true. The majority of employees go to work because they “have to”, not because they “want to”. Work Load Ballast against Work Life Balance…….
How’s that for work-life balance?? Again, if you don’t mind the hard work, because the rewards on the other side are worth it, great! On the other hand, if you find yourself being a modern slave, isn’t it time you start reconsidering your priorities?
Not that I am any better than anyone, but reconsidering my own priorities and values had me quit practicing law, diving from a 6 figure income to the prospect of NO income, with a pregnant partner and high mortgage. Stupid? Perhaps, but as my partner said there and then: “I would rather have you home healthy and relaxed, while we look for a solution, than having you earn loads of money and being miserable.”
It was the best decision in my working life, I can tell you now.
My partner was right. If I had stayed in the profession, I would have been an unhappy man, like so many. Being able to set out What it is I personally want to do, instead of what circumstances make me decide to do, is extremely liberating. We ALL have the capability to do so, as long as we can get our priorities right, make some drastic and gutsy decisions, and stick to them.
Where are you on the spectrum? Overworked and happy? Decent workload and happy? Decent workload and unhappy? Overworked and unhappy? You know. And then you decide where you WANT to be. It REALLY is that easy. If you want to know more about this process, and how to successfully apply it, let me know. You’ll thank yourself for it later.

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