Marshall Sahlins, Stone Age Economics
The Bushman figures imply that one man’s labor in hunting and gathering will support four or five people. Taken at face value, Bushman food collecting is more efficient than French farming in the period up to World War II, when more than 20 percent of the population were engaged in feeding the rest.
Confessedly, the comparison is misleading, but not as misleading as it is astonishing. In the total population of free-ranging Bushmen contacted by Lee, 61.3 percent (152 of 248) were effective food producers; the remainder were too young or too old to contribute importantly. In the particular camp under scrutiny, 65 percent were “effectives.” Thus the ratio of food producers to the general population is actually 3:5 or 2:3. But, these 65 percent of the people “worked 36 percent of the time, and 35 percent of the people did not work at all”! (Lee, 1969, p. 67).
For each adult worker, this comes to about two and one-half days labor per week. (“In other words, each productive individual supported herself or himself and dependents and still had 3-1/2 to 5-1/2 days available for other activities.”) A “day’s work” was about six hours; hence the Dobe work week is approximately 15 hours, or an average of 2 hours 9 minutes per day. Even lower than the Arnhem Land norms, this figure however excludes cooking and the preparation of implements. All things considered, Bushmen subsistence labors are probably very close to those of native Australians.