NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Workers Have Never Had it Better

September 6, 2001

Work conditions have improved dramatically for Americans over the past century. In "Have A Nice Day," Michael Cox and Richard Alm show how U.S. offices and work sites have become safer and more comfortable. For example:

  • On-the-job deaths have fallen from 428 per million workers in 1930 to just 38 per million last year.
  • Nonfatal injuries have dropped from 108 per 1,000 employees in 1973 to 58 in 1999.
  • While many American suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive-motion ailments, even these injuries fell from 11.3 percent of employees to 6.9 percent between 1970 and 2000.

Workplaces are also more easy-going, as 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies have adopted more causal dress codes since 1995. In 1997, 27.6 percent of employees enjoyed flexible working hours, up from 13.6 percent in 1985.

Companies offer perks unheard of 25 years ago, including exercise rooms, paternity leave, on-site child care and paid sabbaticals. Generous retirement plans are available at 81 percent of U.S. firms, and average real hourly wages and benefits grew 175 percent between 1947 and 2000.

Source: Deroy Murdock, "U.S. Workers Have Never Had It Better," Dallas Morning News, September 3, 2001; W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm, "Have A Nice Day: The American Journey to Better Working Conditions," Annual Report 2000, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.


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