Buzzwords – ‘Time poverty’

It could be the perfect buzzword – cliched enough to ring instantly true, yet with enough of a whiff of sociological insight to demand a shelf life.

In Tokyo, time poverty has prompted the tea-break shoulder massage, the seven-minute lunch, 20-minute pub session – and 10-minute haircut.

For some it’s a social leveller. The Guardian wrote recently how in ‘the politics of time, the lowly paid hospital cleaner on double shifts is the natural ally of the corporate lawyer doing all-nighters for his client’.

But for most of us it is a menace, forcing us to choose between work and life.

In America it’s already led to the first national Take Back Your Time Day and a book by John De Graaf. One reader of Take Back Your Time: Fighting Overwork and Time Poverty in the US pledged to ‘send a copy of this book to my team leader, as she hasn’t figured out why she is always angry’.

It’s because she is here until 9pm every night, goes home to see her kids for about five minutes (who have ‘acted out’ while she’s been at work) and has to spend what little free time she has taking them to family therapists – who tell her she needs to achieve work/life balance, or, as she says, ‘whatever THAT is’. Sound familiar?

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