Socialist Studies Socialist Studies

Capitalism Kills

Working long hours is killing hundreds of thousands of workers - mainly middle-aged or older workers - a year in a trend made worse by the Covid 19 pandemic (WHO 18/5/21). Capitalism kills.

In the first global study of the loss of life associated with longer working hours (what Marx called the extent of exploitation), the paper in the journal ENVIRONMENT INTERNATIONAL showed that 745,000 people died from stroke and heart disease associated with long working hours in 2016.

That was an increase of nearly 30 per cent from 2000.

According to Maria Neira, director of the WHO's Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health: "Working 55 hours or more per week is serious health hazard". It was reported that in the City some workers were working up to 80 hours a week.

Overall, the study - drawing on data from 194 countries - said that working 55 hours or more a week is associated with a 35 per cent higher risk of stroke and a 17 per cent higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease compared with a 35-40-hour working week.

And the GUARDIAN reported that a Japanese worker was found dead in her Tokyo apartment with heart failure. She had logged 159 hours and 37 minutes of overtime at work in the month before her death (20 September 2019). Tokyo is the most "overworked" city out of 40 international cities but, paradoxically, is the least productive country in the G7. The Swiss Bank UBS found Mumbai, India's largest City, clocking up 3,315 per year per worker, the longest average working hours in the world.

Such is the risks to workers associated with employment. Workers are forced onto the labour market to sell their commodity labour power or ability to work. They are forced onto the labour market because the capitalist class own the means of production as private property. Employers buy labour power to work with raw resources and machinery to produce commodities for sale for a profit.

Workers spend part of their time at work producing for themselves and their families. That is necessary labour time. The rest of the time they are working for the capitalist. This is surplus labour time, in which they are contributing to the total pool of surplus value.

The ratio of surplus labour time to necessary labour time is the measure of the rate of exploitation. The capitalist class want to increase profits by increasing the intensity and extent of exploitation.

If it leaves workers with shorter lives, that is the price they pay for being employees, wage slaves to a social system that only cares about profit and capital accumulation.

This need not be the case. There is an alternative. And that is socialism: the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society.

In socialism there will be no labour market, no buying and selling of labour power and no employers and employees. Workers will work socially, cooperatively and voluntarily. Workers in socialism will produce useful goods and services to directly meet human need. Workers will not be worked to death.

Back to top

Socialist Studies

email: |