Futures Forum: "A shorter working week would make us healthier, give us more fulfilling and sustainable lives and be better for the environment..."
This column will change your life: stop being busy | Life and style | The Guardian
This comment is from a couple of days ago - and summarises many of the arguments:
The British have solved unemployment,
once and for all
Marketplace Morning Report broadcasts all week from London.
With an excellent article last month in the Independent, from Tom Hodgkinson of the Idler:
A three- or four-day week would be ample to procure the necessities of life. The increase in leisure would be spent pursuing healthy recreations such as philosophy, dancing, sewing, cooking and wandering through the woods collecting mushrooms. This was the view of John Maynard Keynes, who wrote in 1930 that by 2030 all economic problems would have been solved and the only issue left to deal with would be how to enjoy doing nothing without having a nervous breakdown.
He was, perhaps surprisingly, an opponent of the work ethic. “We have been trained too long to strive and not to enjoy,” he wrote in his essay “Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren”, predicting that in 100 years’ time, “We shall honour those who can teach us how to pluck the hour and the day virtuously and well, the delightful people who are capable of taking direct enjoyment in things, the lilies of the field who toil not, neither do they spin.”
Campaigners call for 30-hour working week to allow for healthier, fairer society - and more time for fun - UK Politics - UK - The Independent
It's really quite a hot subject:
The case for a shorter working weekThe case for a shorter working week - News & Events - Leeds University Business School
There's been quite a debate going on in France about the right work-life balance:
'Mais, non!' French frustration at 'after hours' work emails translates into union agreement. How has it come about and could it work here? - Lexology
What the French E-mail Meme Reveals About America’s Runaway Culture of Work | The Nation
There is a long tradition in campaigning for shorter working hours:
THE CONQUEST OF BREAD
Peter Kropotkin: 1892
When we take into account how many, in the so-called civilized nations, produce nothing, how many work at harmful trades, doomed to disappear, and lastly, how many are only useless middlemen, we see that in each nation the number of real producers could be doubled. And if, instead of every 10 men, 20 were occupied in producing useful commodities, and if society took the trouble to economize human energy, those 20 people would only have to work 5 hours a day without production decreasing.
The Conquest of Bread: Chapter 8 Ways and Means
The Conquest of Bread - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Center for a Stateless Society » The Great Domain of Cost-Plus: The Waste Production Economy
But during the 1930s Depression, the idea gained mainstream currency:
Kellogg's Six-Hour Day
Benjamin Kline Hunnicutt
"Do we live to work or work to live? The question of how important work is in our lives is central to Hunnicutt's study of Kellogg's daring social experiment, which began in 1930 and lasted until 1985.... [I]t could serve as a wake up call for a nation in big trouble if the jobless future comes to pass."
On December 1, 1930, at the start of the Great Depression, W.K. Kellogg replaced the traditional three daily eight-hour shifts in his cereal plant with four six-hour shifts. By adding on a new shift he and his managers created jobs for employees that the company had laid off and for other unemployed persons in Battle Creek, Michigan.
Kellogg's six-hour day was the pinnacle of a hundred-year process that cut working time virtually in half. Kellogg Management, propelled by a vision of Liberation Capitalism, insisted that six hours would revolutionize society by shifting the balance of time from work to leisure--from economic concerns to the challenge of freedom.
Benjamin Kline Hunnicutt: Kellogg’s Six-Hour Day
In 1930, the Kellogg Company announced that most of its factories would shift towards 30 hour work weeks, from the usual 40. W.K. Kellogg stated that he did this so that an additional shift of workers would be employed in an effort to support people through the depression era. This practice remained until World War II, and continued briefly after the war, although some departments and factories remained locked into 30 hour work weeks until 1980.
Kellogg's - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
As Benjamin Hunnicutt explains in his book Kellogg’s Six-Hour Day, Brown and Kellogg wanted to do more than save jobs. They hoped to show that the “free exchange of goods, services, and labor in the free market would not have to mean mindless consumerism or eternal exploitation of people and natural resources.” Instead “workers would be liberated by increasingly higher wages and shorter hours for the final freedom promised by the Declaration of Independence—the pursuit of happiness.”
To be sure, Kellogg did not intend to stop making a profit. But the company leaders argued that men and women would work more efficiently on shorter shifts, and with more people employed, the overall purchasing power of the community would increase, thus allowing for more purchases of goods, including cereals.
The Gospel of Consumption | Jeffrey Kaplan | Orion Magazine
To finish, a couple of very insightful, more recent pieces:
What happened to the six-hour workday? - The Week
The Oil Drum | The Four Day Work Week: Sixteen Reasons Why This Might Be an Idea Whose Time Has Come