We Don’t Need a Five-Day Week

Work­ing fewer days could boost our pro­duc­tiv­ity, our home life and our so­ci­ety

Reader's Digest (India) - - ! N My Opinion -

In the midst of the lum­ber­ing euro cri­sis, in­ter­na­tional lenders last year urged a strug­gling Greece to work a six-day week in or­der to re­vive its stag­nat­ing econ­omy. At first glance, this made sense—some­thing must be done, so why not get ev­ery­body to work harder? Surely this will gen­er­ate more out­put and be the sought-af­ter fil­lip to kick-start growth?

And yet a grow­ing num­ber of econ­o­mists and so­cial sci­en­tists sug­gest this is not the way to go. “The con­ven­tional wis­dom says that, in hard times, what we need to do is dou­ble down and work harder be­cause we’re poorer,” said Juliet Schor, pro­fes­sor of so­ci­ol­ogy at Bos­ton Col­lege, at a Lon­don School of Economics con­fer­ence. “That’s the stan­dard view. But it’s a fal­lacy.”

How about do­ing the op­po­site— work­ing fewer days? How about a four-day week? The an­swer to our eco­nomic woes surely lies not in a re­dis­tri­bu­tion of wealth but, as Schor ad­vo­cates, in a re­dis­tri­bu­tion of paid work­ing time. In­deed, the Lon­don-based think tank New Economics Foun­da­tion ( NEF) goes fur­ther still and calls for a 21-hour week, 21 hours be­ing the aver­age num­ber worked each week by all Bri­tons of work­ing age.

Were this to be man­dated, there would, of course, be prob­lems for those whose re­duced wages failed to cover liv­ing costs, even while there would be a re­duc­tion in ben­e­fits. The NEF doesn’t sug­gest forc­ing the is­sue; rather, they’d like to cre­ate the con­di­tions whereby it can hap­pen over time.

But it need not be a zero-sum game, as is ev­i­dent from the shin­ing ex­am­ple of the four-day weeks that al­ready ex­ist. In June 2008, the US state of Utah im­ple­mented the idea for most of its pub­lic-sec­tor

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