Towards a 21-hour working week? — Crooked Timber

15 Jan

An interesting discussion or the idea that a shorter workweek is an important component of a more sustainable world. We need more time for play, in the deepest sense of that word.

Last Wednesday I attended an event at LSE (under the auspices of the New Economics Foundation) exploring the idea of working-time reduction with an eventual goal of moving to a normal working week of 21 hours. …

The three speakers were Juliet Schor (author of Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth), Robert Skidelsky (former Tory spokesman in the Lords, but goodness knows what his party affiliation is today) and Tim Jackson (author of Prosperity Without Growth).

Schor explained that labour-time reduction had been an issue twenty years ago (I guess she was thinking of people like André Gorz) but has slipped out of the policy debate during the boom years. Now, in the post-2008 world, governments are pushing the line that we all need to work harder, for more hours and for more of our lives. But that, argued Schor is exactly wrong. Working-time reduction offers the threefold benefit of few people being unemployed, of less ecological damage and of people having more time to spend on social activities (cue mention of The Big Society). Even if we could grow our way to full employment, we shouldn’t. Rather we should reorient away from overconsumption towards leading better quality lives. More time-stressed households are have more carbon-intensive lifestyles. She held up the Netherlands as a model of how to start moving in this direction. Apparently, the Dutch are the slackers of Europe generally and, some years ago, made new civil service contracts 80%. You have the freedom there to choose to be a five, four, three, two or one-day-a week employee.

via Towards a 21-hour working week? — Crooked Timber.

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