Time Poverty

Consider the following:

“It is a particularly bitter irony that in the developed world with its bounty of goods and services, people increasingly struggle with what is termed time poverty.  They would much rather have a sense of time affluence; in fact, many have reported that they would prefer it to an increase in their income.

This comes from a book review of the book How to Inhabit Time:  Understanding the Past, Facing the Future, Living Faithfully Now.  The author draws from theology and philosophy, as well as from art history, literary criticism, and music theory. 

While  at some point we all have likely said “I just don’t have enough time,” the phrase “time poverty” apparently came into its current usage in the midst of the pandemic.  As more people were working from home, work and home life became more blurred.  Even more reliance on technology was another result, as we sought to stay connected when in-person gatherings were not advisable. 

In a fascinating article by Laura Giurge and Ashley Whillans, the authors explore time poverty and the various factors that contribute to it: “ Although wealth has risen around the world, material prosperity has not translated into an abundance of time; on the contrary, rising wealth often exacerbates feelings of time poverty . Defined as the chronic feeling of having too many things to do and not enough time to do them , time poverty is increasing in society. Data from the Gallup US Daily Poll – a nationally representative sample of US residents– shows that, in 2011, 70% of employed Americans reported that they “never had enough time,” and in 2018, this proportion increased to 80%.”

Giurge and Whillans identify organizational, institutional, and psychological factors that contribute to time poverty.  One example: globally the average for time spent commuting is 300 hours per year travelling to and from work.  Statistics on government paperwork are even more startling.   In 1980 the United States Congress passed the Paper Reduction Act, which was revised in 1995 to further address the time consumed in paperwork.  Yet Giurge and Whillan report that “In 2015, federal government paperwork demands cost US citizens 9.78 billion hours or the equivalent of $215 billion a year in lost wages. In 2019, the US Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)—the agency that oversees the implementation of governmental regulations—estimated that paperwork burdens had grown to 11.6 billion hours.”

These factors would seem to interplay.  Someone applying for Medicaid has eligibility paperwork that can range from 24 to 31 pages.  How difficult for some of these folks and how stressful and depressing that could be.

Despite the challenges these factors present, we can cultivate attitudes that are intentional about our use of time and that help us to care for ourselves and one another.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  “The bad news is time flies.  The good news is that you are the pilot.”  Michael Altshuler

3 thoughts on “Time Poverty”

  1. What is depressing to me is how much time I waste. I waste time looking for things, and it wouldn’t happen if I had SPENT time organizing my space. I waste time on the computer because I’m overwhelmed at the thought of starting a daunting task.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Spot on Kate. I am most surprised on how I have continued to fill life with things to do after retirement… or at least thoughts that I should be busy doing something. I find that I have to carve out time and give myself permission to just sit and read. Thanks for pointing out our poverty in this area.

    Liked by 1 person

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