Cut the Working Week to a Maximum of 20 Hours, Urge Top Economists
Job sharing and increased leisure are the answer to rising unemployment, claims thinktank
By Heather Stewart / theguardian.com

Britain is struggling to shrug off the credit crisis; overworked parents are stricken with guilt about barely seeing their offspring; carbon dioxide is belching into the atmosphere from our power-hungry offices and homes. In London on Wednesday, experts will gather to offer a novel solution to all of these problems at once: a shorter working week.

A thinktank, the New Economics Foundation (NEF), which has organised the event with the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion at the London School of Economics, argues that if everyone worked fewer hours – say, 20 or so a week – there would be more jobs to go round, employees could spend more time with their families and energy-hungry excess consumption would be curbed. Anna Coote, of NEF, said: "There's a great disequilibrium between people who have got too much paid work, and those who have got too little or none."

She argued that we need to think again about what constitutes economic success, and whether aiming to boost Britain's GDP growth rate should be the government's first priority: "Are we just living to work, and working to earn, and earning to consume? There's no evidence that if you have shorter working hours as the norm, you have a less successful economy: quite the reverse." She cited Germany and the Netherlands.

Robert Skidelsky, the Keynesian economist, who has written a forthcoming book with his son, Edward, entitled How Much Is Enough?, argued that rapid technological change means that even when the downturn is over there will be fewer jobs to go around in the years ahead. "The civilised answer should be work-sharing. The government should legislate a maximum working week."

Many economists once believed that as technology improved, boosting workers' productivity, people would choose to bank these benefits by working fewer hours and enjoying more leisure. Instead, working hours have got longer in many countries. The UK has the longest working week of any major European economy.

Skidelsky says politicians and economists need to think less about the pursuit of growth. "The real question for welfare today is not the GDP growth rate, but how income is divided."

Parents of young children already have the right to request flexible working, but the NEF would like to see job-sharing and alternative work patterns become much more widespread, and is calling on the government to make flexible working a default right for everyone.

4.3 ·
3
What's Next
Trending Today
Ten Ways We Misunderstand Children
Jan Hunt · 18,472 views today · 1. We expect children to be able to do things before they are ready. We ask an infant to keep quiet. We ask a 2-year-old to sit still. We ask a 3-year-old to clean his room...
18 Empowering Illustrations to Remind Everyone Who's Really in Charge of Women's Bodies
Julianne Ross · 4,695 views today · When Brazilian graphic designer Carol Rossetti began posting colorful illustrations of women and their stories to Facebook, she had no idea how popular they would...
The Little Engine That Couldn't: How We're Preparing Ourselves and Our Children for Extinction
Daniel Quinn · 3,537 views today · In a recent semi-documentary film called Garbage, a toxic waste disposal engineer was asked how we can stop engulfing the world in our poisons. His answer was, "We'd have to...
Beyond Civilization: Humanity's Next Great Adventure
Daniel Quinn · 1,394 views today · PART ONE A fable to start with Once upon a time life evolved on a certain planet, bringing forth many different social organizations—packs, pods, flocks, troops, herds, and...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 986 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren't Called 'Hitler'
Liam O'Ceallaigh · 902 views today · Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is? Most people haven’t heard of him. But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in...
You Should Get Naked More Often. It's Good for You.
Joni Sweet · 846 views today · When Nelly encouraged overheated people worldwide to get naked in 2002, he was unknowingly advocating much more than just a sexy, sweaty dance party. Sunbathing, sleeping...
Gabor Maté: Why Our Culture Makes So Many Of Us Unhappy
3 min · 839 views today · Dr. Gabor Maté explains why it is that our culture makes so many of us unhappy, unkind to one another, miserable, alienated from ourselves, etc. Watch the full interview in Part 2.
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 818 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 764 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
It Didn't Start With You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are
Mark Wolynn · 661 views today · The past is never dead. It’s not even past. — William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 623 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
Lawns Are for Suckers. Plant a Garden - for the Climate!
Nathanael Johnson · 608 views today · Ripping out your lawn and planting kale and peppers won’t just lead to great stir-fry — a new study finds it could make major contributions to fighting climate change...
Bitter Lake (2015)
136 min · 563 views today · Adam Curtis: Politicians used to have the confidence to tell us stories that made sense of the chaos of world events. But now there are no big stories and politicians react...
A New Story for Humanity (2016)
102 min · 449 views today · Inspired by the New Story Summit at the Findhorn Foundation: a sold-out multicultural, multigenerational inquiry into a new story for humanity, attended by change makers and...
90 Inspiring and Visionary Films That Will Change How You See the World in Profound Ways
Tim Hjersted · 424 views today · The world today is in crisis. Everybody knows that. But what is driving this crisis? It's a story, a story that is destroying the world. It's a story about our relationship to...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 412 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Masculinity Is Killing Men: The Roots of Men and Trauma
Kali Holloway · 388 views today · We begin the damaging process of turning boys into men long before boyhood ends.
Why You Should Take Your Kids Out of School
Ben Hewitt · 353 views today · We don't need no education. At least not of the traditional, compulsory, watch-the-clock-until-the-bell-rings kind. As a growing movement of unschoolers believe, a steady diet...
Why People's Opinions of You Aren't Real
4 min · 319 views today · "You are what you love and not what loves you." - From Charlie Kaufman's film "Adaptation"
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Cut the Working Week to a Maximum of 20 Hours, Urge Top Economists