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Australians explain why their work culture is better than America's: 'Unions make a difference'

A curious Reddit user asked why "live to work" culture never caught on in Australia. Many natives pointed to their country's strong labor laws.

Australians explain why their work culture is better than America's: 'Unions make a difference'
Image Source: Cafeteria Workers At The U.S. Senate Picket Against Layoffs. WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 06. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Many people believe that they live to work. However, one Reddit user noted how in Australia there seems to be a more relaxed, people-centric approach to work, in stark contrast to other countries in the Anglosphere. To attempt to get understand why this is so, user Moviessoccerbeer took to the subreddit r/Australia. They asked, "Australia seems to have adopted the Mediterranean 'work to live' mentality when it comes to the work ethic. Why is that?" In response, several fellow Redditors pointed out the differences between American and Australian work cultures.


One person pointed out how Australian work culture is not as competitive as America's. "Hard work is unevenly distributed across our society, but fundamentally we are (thankfully) lacking the shark tank, win at all costs, look after myself only ethic that permeates American working life," they wrote. "I think that cutthroat work environment is born of a lack of social safety net, at-will employment contracts, and the absurdity of having your health insurance tied to your employer. I pray we never become like them." Others highlighted how the Australian workforce is more empowered than the American workforce.


For instance, one user stated, "I think [the] workforce [has] more power. It is passe to admit this now, but unions make a difference. Even if you are not in a unionized industry, the fact that [unions] are around means your alternatives are not that bad. If your opportunity costs of more leisure are low, guess what, you will take more leisure, and so will everyone else." Another user agreed. "Unions, which really extends to the labor party, is probably the real reason for this," they commented. "We have it pretty good here, not the best, but also far from the worst comparing to other Western countries. A lot of people are anti-union these days but we all reap the benefits from the movements of yesteryear."

Meanwhile, some Reddit users pointed out how Australia is not the safe haven Americans may think it is. One individual wrote, "I think it is a bit of a myth that Australians are all laid back larrikins. It is a lie we keep telling ourselves. Take any corporate job [or] study any degree in Australia and you will find yourself surrounded by stressed-out workaholics with a 'work hard play hard' mentality, not at all unlike what I imagine the culture in the USA is like. Perhaps our older generations were indeed more relaxed, hence where the laid-back Australian stereotype comes from. But this is absolutely untrue for younger generations today, in my experience."


Others acknowledged that while Australia was sinking further into late-stage capitalism, the country's strong labor laws were preventing the rampant forms of exploitation that have become the norm in the United States. "It is likely I am very out of touch with the ordinary working Australian, but I completely disagree with this, especially in the corporate world," one user noted. "Live to work is very quickly becoming the norm in Australia, particularly in the law and finance sectors. Australia and New Zealand are quickly becoming US-lite on this, and if not for our strong labor laws and rights, we would already be there with the seppos." As several global crises push us further to the margins, corporate greed seems to be taking centerstage—across the globe.

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