More Play, Less Work Foreseen for U.S

By Wetzstein, Cheryl | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 5, 2000 | Go to article overview
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More Play, Less Work Foreseen for U.S

Wetzstein, Cheryl, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)

Fifteen years from now, people will likely watch more soccer, buy more athletic shoes, visit more theme parks and develop a strong yen to eat Chinese food - in China.

So says Graham T.T. Molitor, a Bethesda futurist who sees the leisure, entertainment and hospitality industries as the next big "economic wave" to engulf the world.

The ingredients for the rise of leisure are already here, he says, pointing to such global trends as shorter workweeks, more holidays, longer vacations, earlier retirement, longer life spans, faster transportation, smaller families and more labor-saving devices.

But not everybody sees a trend toward Leisure World. In a recent cover story on Americans being "world-class workaholics," U.S. News & World Report reported that the United States has surpassed frenetic Japan as the "longest-working" nation.

The number of U.S. workers who work 50-plus hours a week is now up to 37 percent from a decade ago, and the average workweek among salaried Americans is now 47 hours, the magazine said. The price of prosperity, the article concluded, was to work harder than ever.

Two professors who review "use-of-time" diaries by Americans, however, say that people significantly exaggerate how much time they spend working.

Leisure time is growing, not shrinking, researchers John P. Robinson and Geoffrey Godbey conclude in their 1999 edition of "Time for Life: The Surprising Way Americans Use Their Time."

Mr. Molitor, president of Public Policy Forecasting and author of an upcoming book, "The Next 1,000 Years," says that forces are converging that will allow people to spend as much as 50 percent of their lifetimes on entertainment, sports, travel and other leisure activities.

As a result, he says, leisure-oriented businesses will dominate the employment market by 2015 and account half of the U.S. gross national product.

Mr. Molitor specifically forecasts that:

* People will buy experiences, not things, thus heralding the "waning of materialism."

* Travel and tourism will boom, with China as the top-ranked tourist destination by 2020. Why? "Because it's big, cheap, interesting, with lots to see that hasn't been seen before," he says, tossing in a further prediction that China will be the world's largest economic power within 50 years.

* Playing and watching sports of all kinds, from chess to jet water skiing, will become more popular. The cost of tickets, however, will come down through technology - a Broadway show opening will be telecast to millions for a $2 a head, he says. (This will be in addition, of course, to the big-bucks crowd who see it in the theater.)

* Elaborate indoor theme parks will appear to accommodate those who don't have the time or money to travel extensively. These theme parks will re-create nature - some will offer manmade "beaches," sun and palm trees, while others will have artificial snow and "mountains" for skiing.

* Travel will become swifter and cars will drive themselves.

Some economic trends favor these predictions.

Americans alone spent $431 billion on recreation in 1996 - 53 percent more than in 1990, says the U.

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