When Dutch journalist and anthropologist Joris Luyendijk interviewed young bankers for a book financial services culture, he was struck by the subversion of standard morality to 'time in the office.'
“When young bankers spoke of ethics, it was often in the context of ‘work ethic’,” Luyendijk told us. “The young bankers I spoke to felt ethical and good about themselves through the long hours and ‘professionalism’ they were putting into work.”
If hours worked do indeed equate to morality, people who work in finance are unusually decent. Most of the bankers Luyendijk spoke to were working crazy hours. “Everyone told me that they hadn’t really understood what working 80 hours a week would be like. You lose control of your life. You’re working all the time and you’re never sure when you’ll be off," he told us.
Another ex-IBD associate put it more succinctly: "In my first year, I was working until 3am two or three nights a week and I worked every single weekend."
How many hours a week do 'other' people work? A lot less according to today's labour market release from the UK Office of National Statistics. The average man in the UK who works full time is working 39.4 hours a week. The average woman works 34.2 hours.
Average male working hours are distributed as follows:
Only 28% of full time male workers in the UK are working more than 45 hours per week.
As well as fanning finance professionals' perception of their goodness, the abnormally long hours in banking help provide some context to the abnormally high pay in banking. A £65k salary three years out of university doesn't look quite as impressive when you're working twice as hard as your peers.
For the record, finance professionals also have no need of long hours to make them ethical: a recent study suggested the average banker is more ethical than the average journalist, civil servant or politician.
(Photo credit: frankieleon)