All Utopians are instructed in agriculture from an early age. In addition, every man and woman has a trade, such as cloth making, blacksmithing, or carpentry. The women keep to the lighter trades, like cloth making. Families make their own clothes; everyone wears the same clothes, and the fashion never changes. Skills are passed down from father to son, but if a person wants to practice a different trade from his father, he is adopted into another family that can teach him that trade.
It is the job of the Syphogrants to ensure that no man is idle, yet the Utopians do not wear themselves out with work: they work a six-hour day. They spend their leisure time reading, attending public lectures, playing or listening to music, chatting, or playing educational board games. There is no gambling because there is no money.
A six-hour working day is sufficient for them to supply all their needs, as unlike contemporary European society, all the women work, there are no idle aristocrats or gentry, houses are kept in good repair so little building work is required, and there are no trades that merely serve the vanity of the rich. A few people are exempted from labor because they have an aptitude for intellectual pursuits. From this class are drawn the Tranibors, priests, ambassadors, and the Prince. Unnecessary labor is discouraged because Utopians believe that everyone should have as much time as possible to improve their minds, as this creates happiness.
The working life of Utopia differs from that of the Europe of Thomas More's day in that women as well as men work. This is a progressive notion on the author's part. Still progressive is his idea of the six-hour working day - less than most people work in the West today. The author is able to put this idea forward because in Utopia, he has eliminated what he saw as the non-productive class of the nobility.
It is worth noting that today, commentators on social policy are increasingly arguing for a shorter working day. For example, Madeleine Bunting's influential book Willing Slaves (2004) points out that Americans and Britons are working extraordinarily long hours, at the expense of all other aspects of life.
In addition, advisors to governments are beginning to challenge the prevailing model of deciding policy and measuring a nation's success solely by economic factors. In the face of research suggesting that as a nation grows financially richer, the people do not necessarily grow happier and may instead become more miserable, these advisors are suggesting that each time the government has to decide on a policy, the people's happiness and well being are taken into account. However, this remains controversial, with opponents arguing that the state cannot or should not legislate for happiness.
Utopia: Novel Summary: Book II - Of their trades, and manner of life