Thursday, 31 July 2014

Knowle relocation project: FOI request goes to tribunal ..... yet further reports

Following on from news on the District Council's appeal against the Information Commissioner's decision on publishing reports on Knowle:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: FOI request goes to tribunal ..... further reports

... there has been further interest:
Date for your diary.. 28 August, 2014. Exeter Magistrates Court . Tribunal to consider whether Knowle relocation papers should be disclosed. | Save Our Sidmouth

The minutes to the full Council meeting of 23rd July have been published:

f) Council’s appeal re publishing the survey on Knowle buildings

No supplementary question was asked.

g) Cost to EDDC of Information Commissioner’s public hearing on publishing survey.

In response to a supplementary question, the Chief Executive advised that the cost was dependent on the length and complexity of the hearing; this was the first time the Council had ever been involved in this type of hearing.


Independent Councillor Claire Wright has more on the questions she posed on the issue:

EDDC full council questions and answers from last week’s meeting

Wednesday, 30 July 2014 by Claire

These may be of interest….

Question 6: Procedure Rule 9.2 to the Leader from Cllr Claire Wright

Can the Leader please explain why this council has appealed against an information commissioner’s ruling on publishing an important survey on the state of the Knowle buildings?

There seems to be some misunderstanding here. The appeal underway relates to reports to the Council’s relocation working groups on a range of matters, not particular to a survey on the state of Knowle buildings. The nearest thing to such a report would be the previously published costing of essential improvements to the Knowle which Cllr Claire Wright will be aware of.

The working group reports subject to an ICO hearing contain information on a variety of sensitive subjects relating to the Council’s relocation including detail on land ownership, land values and ongoing negotiations as well as matters of legal professional privilege. As such the Council believes that it is not appropriate that this information should be in the public domain.

Question 7: Procedure Rule 9.2 to the Leader from Councillor Claire Wright

Please confirm the cost to EDDC, of the Information Commissioner’s public hearing on publishing the survey, which takes place on 28 August.

The Council had asked the Information Commissioner’s Office if the matter could be resolved by paper process but the ICO has insisted on an oral hearing. The costs of an oral hearing could fall at least in part to the Council but we are not able to say at the moment what those costs will be.

EDDC full council questions and answers from last week’s meeting - Claire Wright

The East Devon Alliance reports on an interesting case before an Information Tribunal:

See also:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: FOI request goes to tribunal
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: further FOI requests

How much space do you have to live in: "How family homes have halved in size by over 700-square feet in a century"

On the Continent, housing space is measured - not by 'how many rooms' a dwelling has (Anyone for 'bedroom tax'?) - but by the actual space it occupies - ie, in square metres:
Futures Forum: How much space do you have to live in - compared to the Continent? How are we taxing that space in the UK? And are you getting value for money from the estate agents?

The Daily Mail has brought up this issue once again:

The space age is a long way off yet... How family homes have halved in size by over 700-square feet in a century

More and more children are forced to share bedrooms as house sizes drop
Many homes don't have a garden or adequate storage for families
Cramped conditions can affect both children and 'space-starved adults'


PUBLISHED: 21:47, 30 July 2014 | UPDATED: 08:39, 31 July 2014

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Families are being forced to squeeze into smaller spaces as average house sizes drop. File picture

The average size of a family home has almost halved over the past 90 years, a report reveals today.

Families are increasingly being forced to squeeze into smaller spaces, with many children forced to share a bedroom and many new homes not having a garden or adequate storage space.

The report from the Post Office compared newly-built, semi-detached houses in 1924 with the average home being built today. It found many of the former had four bedrooms and an average size of 1,647sq ft, while today’s typical home is almost half that size – with three bedrooms and only 925sq ft. The difference, of 722sq ft, is the equivalent of two double-bedrooms. Nearly a third of parents said they have sacrificed, or are willing to give up, their home’s largest bedroom for their children, the report said.

Based on research by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, it looks at how living in increasingly smaller homes – many without a garden – affects family life for children and ‘space-starved’ parents. A fifth of families said their children are sharing a bedroom, at an age when many would prefer to have their own room.

The majority of parents said their children play outside less than they did when they themselves were children. With no garden, many children end up spending their school holidays indoors. More than a quarter ‘prefer to sit inside and play computer games’, it found. About 60 per cent of adults wish their children had bigger rooms in which to study and play. A similar number said they would like to move into a bigger home, but many fear this will never happen.

John Willcock, of the Post Office, said: ‘It is hardly surprising so many of us are concerned about this lack of space and the impact it will have.’

The report comes after the Royal Institute of British Architects raised concerns about the size of homes which people are having to live in, and particularly their chronic lack of storage space. Its recent study revealed how one couple used to keep their vacuum cleaner at the man’s mother’s house because they simply had no available storage space in their new-build flat in Liverpool. Each week, they would drive 20 minutes to her house in order to pick up the vacuum cleaner, do the cleaning, and then return it once they had finished.

Scroll down for video

Relic: Semi-detached houses in 1924 had four bedrooms and an average size of 1,647sq ft, while today’s typical home is almost half that size. Pictured, a property at the Daily Mail Ideal Home exhibition in 1924

Many families told the Royal Institute, known as RIBA, they had no space to store even any large supermarket shopping, especially if they bought extra on promotions, such as buy-one-get-one-free. One woman said: ‘If it is buy-one-get-one free crisps, then we just leave it in the car.’ Others used a garage or loft to store groceries, rather than their cramped kitchen. RIBA says the average one-bedroom new-build home is now the size of a single carriage on the London Underground.

For many young families, their plight is made worse by the fact they are renting but would prefer to own their home.

The difference in space of 722sq ft between homes in 1924 and today is the equivalent of two double-bedrooms

This picture from the 1924 Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition shows an £890 home, one of a number being erected in 1924. The report from the Post Office compared newly-built, semi-detached houses in that year with the average home being built today

In the space of just five years – from 2008 to last year – the percentage of 25 to 34-year-olds privately renting their home has jumped from 31 per cent to 45 per cent, the Government’s English Housing Survey found.

While the Post Office figures are startling, there were, however, far fewer homes in 1924. Department for Communities and Local Government figures show there were nine million dwellings, compared with about 27million today.

Henry Gregg, of the National Housing Federation, said: ‘Rising house prices and a lack of homes being built has left people struggling to afford a decent home with the space they need.’

How family homes have halved in size by over 700-square feet in a century | Mail Online

And a further report from the Mail:
Studio flat so tiny you have to stand on a fridge and climb up a ladder to get into bed available for rent for £780 a month (and letting agents have had 60 inquiries) | Mail Online

With comment from the East Devon Alliance:


31st July 2014

“Families are increasingly being forced to squeeze into smaller spaces, with many children forced to share a bedroom and many new homes not having a garden or adequate storage space.”

Though we have heard of at least one local model house that had to have fitted wardrobes inserted in bedrooms during the early part of the build because not even flat packs will go up the stairs!

Let’s hope none of our rash of new homes have these problems | East Devon Alliance

And an explanation from Money Week:

Why Britain has the nastiest new homes in Europe

By: Merryn Somerset Webb23/07/20146 Comments

I wrote in last week’s magazine about the myth of tiny UK houses. Most people think that the average size of a UK home is smaller than the average size of any other European home. It isn’t. The simple truth is that UK houses are on average roughly the same size as houses everywhere else in Europe – around 95 square metres.

That doesn’t mean that we don’t have a problem. We do: our new houses are genuinely tiny. New houses built in the private sector average a mean 76 square metres. The question is, why?

Matthew Lynn puts it down to planning. I’m not so sure on that – if you read this old blog post, you will see that there isn’t nearly as much of a problem with planning as most people think – London is awash with new developments and there are some 400,000 as yet unbuilt houses in the UK with full planning permission.

So, if that’s not the problem, what is? One answer – from the New Home Blog is that the UK has no minimum build standards for private homes. We have a long history of imposing size requirements – or at least firm suggestions – on housebuilders (you can read the full history in this remarkably comprehensive report written for the Greater London Authority a few years ago) but at the moment, outside the London guidelines at least, anything that bumps up your margins, and that you can disguise successfully in a show home, goes.

This isn’t the case elsewhere – many other European countries set minimum sizes with either regulation or via fiscal incentives. The same is true in various municipalities in the US.

And it makes sense. Tiny houses aren’t good for anyone except housebuilders. The Royal Institute of British Architects likes the idea, and so does the National Housing Federation.

Clearly the House Builders Federation (HBF) doesn’t fancy it so much – given the amount people can afford to pay for houses it is more likely to hit their margins than to hit end prices. But their stated reason for rejecting it – that they only build what the market demands – really doesn’t stack up.

As the report I mentioned above notes “there seems to be a mis-match between homebuyers’ preferences and what the market is providing. Homebuyers express a preference for houses rather than flats, more bedrooms and larger rooms for living and storage.” Given all this I suspect that minimum living space standards might be worth more discussion than they get at the moment.

Why Britain has the nastiest new homes in Europe - MoneyWeek

But the RIBA has been talking about this for a long time:
Rabbit-hutch Britain: Growing health concerns as UK sets record for smallest properties in Europe - Home News - UK - The Independent
UK living conditions becoming more cramped, research finds | Money | theguardian.com
Average one bedroom new build 'no bigger than an underground train carriage' - Telegraph

See also:
Futures Forum: How much space do you have to live in? ............................. Why not make it one of George Clarke's 'Amazing Spaces'?

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

In Praise of Idleness: "If Hadza nomads get by on 14 hours’ work a week, why can’t we?"

Some relevant ideas for our stressed-out times:

Replacing Happiness with Idleness

In Idle Theory, pain and pleasure are replaced by busyness and idleness. The Benthamite Principle of Utility may be reformulated such that it approves or disapproves of every action whatsover, according to the tendency which it appears to have to augment or diminish the idleness of the party whose interest is in question. And since idle and busy time may be measured using clocks, there is in principle no problem in measuring idleness, and therefore no obstacle to a reformulated "felicific calculus". At one step, Idle Theory gets round one of the strongest objections to Utilitarianism: that it is incommensurable. For while idleness is at least in principle measurable, happiness is not.

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.

JOHN LUBBOCK, The Use of Life

 Image for Idleness: relaxation or subversion?


What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad day light,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.




The Hadza

They grow no food, raise no livestock, and live without rules or calendars. They are living a hunter-gatherer existence that is little changed from 10,000 years ago. What do
they know that we've forgotten?

By Michael Finkel
Photograph by Martin Schoeller
"I'm hungry," says Onwas, squatting by his fire, blinking placidly through the smoke. The men beside him murmur in assent. It's late at night, deep in the East African bush. Singing, a rhythmic chant, drifts over from the women's camp. Onwas mentions a tree he spotted during his daytime travels. The men around the fire push closer. It is in a difficult spot, Onwas explains, at the summit of a steep hill that rises from the grassy plain. But the tree, he adds, spreading his arms wide like branches, is heavy with baboons. There are more murmurs. Embers rise to a sky infinite with stars. And then it is agreed. Everyone stands and grabs his hunting bow.

The Hadza — National Geographic Magazine

There has been a lot of comment on ideas to reduce the working week:
Futures Forum: The 3-day week: "Is this a charitable proposal wrapped in a business opportunity?"

This is from Boyd Tonkin of the Independent:

If Hadza nomads get by on 14 hours’ work a week, why can’t we?

BOYD TONKIN Friday 25 July 2014

You should cherish your hours of idleness even more keenly than usual this summer. For the work fetishists are on the warpath

For 150 years, reformers and idealists have dreamed of leisure and relaxation ample enough to allow human beings to thrive. In 1890, William Morris subtitled his utopian fantasia News from Nowhere “an epoch of rest”. Proper holidays, legally mandated after the bitter struggle to guarantee them, are not only one of the summits of civilisation. They offer a utopian foretaste of a more rational state of affairs. If the richest man in the world can recommend working less but better, who dares disagree? Mexican mining and telecoms magnate Carlos Slim, who this month overtook Bill Gates in estimated total assets ($79.6 bn to Gates’s $79.1 bn), thinks that in the future we should be working three days each week.

You should cherish your hours of idleness even more keenly than usual this summer. For the work fetishists are on the warpath. The present Government has failed to make work pay for everyone, despite the intentions of its universal credit (UC) reforms to safeguard the income of people who move off benefits. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that UC “in many cases provides little or no incentive for additional work”, while the Government’s own impact assessment calculates 2.8 million losers (and 3.1 million winners) under the new system. So the practical attractions of honest toil for families on low incomes remain, at best, balanced on a fiscal knife edge. What to do? Promote politicians whose USP is insulting their fellow citizens as work-shy shirkers. Quite brilliant.

In 2012, the Free Enterprise Group of Conservative MPs published their hardcore treatise Britannia Unchained, with its notorious jibes at Britons as gold-medal slackers, “among the worst idlers in the world” when they enter the workplace. “We work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our productivity is poor.” Quite false on the first two counts: OECD figures have annual working hours in the UK as 1,625, compared with 1,482 in France and 1,406 in super-efficient Germany. Our benchmark age for retirement is due to rise inexorably. Already, the UK rate for employment among the over-65s exceeds that in the rest of Europe; only Denmark comes close.

The Free Enterprisers’ final slur on their people is technically correct but economically illiterate. A substantial literature already surrounds the UK “productivity puzzle”, whereby post-recession output and employment have risen while national productivity markedly drops: $42.1 contribution to GDP per hour worked in 2013, compared with a eurozone average of $43.7 and a G7 rate of $48.4. Explanations for the plunge range from the misallocation of resources and the post-crash investment famine to, in several studies, the long-term fall in real wages. Professor John Van Reenen of the London School of Economics argues in a paper that “low wages and weak investment mean a big fall in the amount of effective capital per worker and this accounts for most of the fall in labour productivity”.

No serious economist thinks it has anything to do with skivers chatting by the coffee machine or sloping off early to the pub. So what became of the excitable duffers responsible for Britannia Unchained? One of the gang, Elizabeth Truss, has joined the Cabinet as Environment Secretary. Another, Priti Patel, will now help to steer taxation policy as Exchequer Secretary at the Treasury.

Above all, we need a change of culture. More than 80 years ago, Bertrand Russell wrote a wonderful essay entitled “In Praise of Idleness”. I wanted to call it “invigorating”, but “soothing” might be an apter word. This manifesto for malingerers tells of Russell’s recovery from the Victorian creed that “Satan finds some mischief for idle hands to do”. Now, “my opinions have undergone a revolution. I think that there is far too much work done in the world, that immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous”. Russell attacks not work in itself but the idolatrous and inhuman religion of labour. Even with 1930s technology, he reckons that four hours each day should be enough to secure a civilised life for all. Since then, advanced robotics have brought his fantasy much closer to reality. For Russell, the four-hour day will usher in an age of “happiness and joy of life, instead of frayed nerves, weariness, and dyspepsia. The work exacted will be enough to make leisure delightful, but not enough to produce exhaustion. Since men will not be tired in their spare time, they will not demand only such amusements as are passive and vapid”.

Lord Russell published about 70 books over 70 years, from German Social Democracy in 1896 to War Crimes in Vietnam in 1967. Plainly, he found it a little hard to practise what he preached. No matter. In the great thinker’s final decade, his advocacy of the four-hour day or (roughly) 20-hour week began to attract endorsement from some unexpected sources. When anthropologists in the 1960s started to look seriously at the world’s surviving hunter-gatherer societies, they showed that in New Guinea, the Kalahari or the Amazon entirely self-sufficient tribes flourished with almost exactly that workload.

Jared Diamond, the scientist who has done more than anyone to draw lessons from “the world until yesterday”, argued that “Hunter-gatherers practised the most successful and longest-lasting lifestyle in human history”. On a 24-hour clock, our species took to labour-intensive agriculture only at 11.54pm. Moreover, several viable communities undercut the 20-hour norm, with the Hadza nomads of Tanzania getting by on 14 hours of foraging every week. Richard Lee’s research among the Dobe people of the Kalahari found that their far from taxing routines yielded a daily calorie intake of 2,140, compared with an estimated requirement of 1,975. Not just slackers, but overeaters too.

So, from leisure-loving survivors in forest or desert to Nobel Prize-winning philosophers, reasonable idleness has an illustrious pedigree. Remember that glorious heritage of justified indolence the next time some punitive ideologue tries to confuse repose with laziness, or drudgery with purpose. Enjoy your “favourite island” this August, or even just your favourite armchair. By occupying them, you may help to bring an “epoch of rest” that bit nearer.

If Hadza nomads get by on 14 hours’ work a week, why can’t we? - Comment - Voices - The Independent

Looking at 'the productivity puzzle, on Radio 4's Analysis, Paul Johnson recently asked:

The End of the Pay Rise?

Monday 14 July 2014

Something strange has been happening in the British economy. For over six years now, wages have fallen for most of us, which is unprecedented in British modern history. And despite the return of economic growth, wages still have not picked up.

What has happened? And crucially is this a long term problem - is this the end of the pay rise? Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, explores the mystery of our falling wages and finds out how it is related to how productive we are, but also to how wages themselves are shared out between the top earners and the rest of us.

BBC Radio 4 - Analysis, The End of the Pay Rise?
BBC Radio 4 Analysis: The end of the pay rise? | University of Bath

There is some very interesting literature on the the theme of 'idleness':

Jay Griffiths says that Western society’s fear of idleness is part of our modern malaise. Playing for timeThe Ecologist 2001

Lord Layard is genuine and evangelical about the possibilities of the new science of happiness and its ability to transform poor people's lives… He argued passionately for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – a short-term therapy that focuses on thinking and behaviour – to tackle this.
"The notion that a few weeks of CBT will transform miserable people languishing in idleness and dependency into happy shiny productive workers is embarrassing in its absurdity," wrote a GP, Mike Fitzpatrick, in the British Journal of General Practice.

James Woodburn, perhaps the most remarkable of all British experts on hunter-gatherers, said to me recently: “there’s a chasm between hunter-gatherers and all other peoples – that’s the simple starting-point for all this work.”

How to be Free: Tom Hodgkinson: 2006
The two great influences on the development of medieval ethics were Christ’s Sermon on the Mount and Aristotle’s Ethics, which had come to Europe via Arab translations. From this material they developed an approach to life which was eco-friendly, neighbourly and based on cooperating rather than competing.
ANTI-CAPITALIST: Lending at interest, or usury, is at the basis of the capitalist system. And usury was quite specifically proscribed by medieval ethics. It was sinful, they said, to sell something that does not belong to you, which is time. It was also sinful to take advantage of someone else’s misfortune by lending them money.
ANTI-WORK: According to historian Jacques Le Goff, the medievals were opposed to hard work, because, he says, to put in long hours displayed a lack of faith in Providence. Theologically, medieval Catholicism was closer to an almost Taoist Oriental fatalism than today’s Protestant culture. And hard work might give you an unfair advantage over your brothers.
ANTI-COMPETITIVE: Craftsmen organised themselves into a system of Guilds. Guild members mutually agreed to keep quality high and prices uncompetitive. They instituted the notion of a “just and fixed price” for their wares. Goods were produced in small groups. This practice guarded against today’s problem which is giant companies producing a load of rubbish.
HOSPITABLE: Just as indigenous people today would share their last crust with you, so the medievals emphasised the importance of good hospitality. The monasteries would take in wandering men and give them beer, bread and bacon, and indeed, the (later) problem of homeless, in the Elizabethan age, was a direct result of the destruction of the monasteries.
PARTY-LOVING: The medieval calendar was absolutely studded with feast days and festivals. Of course, we all celebrate Christmas now, but Christmas then was celebrated for 12 days, during which no one was allowed to work. Every three or four weeks there was some excuse for a party. May Day was for having sex and every three of four weeks there was a long break.
NEIGHBOURLY: Christ had conceived of the world as a “brotherhood of man” and civility to your neighbour was paramount. This is because the medievals had a sense of collective responsibility: we are all in this together, so your well-being and my well-being are one and the same thing.

The Idle Foundation >>Home
The Abolition of Work: Bob Black: 1986 >>THE ABOLITION OF WORK

Idleness: In Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K. Jerome memorably remarked that ‘work fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours’… Similar siren calls are heard in Robert Fuller Murray’s poem ‘Indolence’ and Keats’s ‘Ode on Indolence’, and drowsy days in the sun also inspire Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’une faune… the torpor of the marriners of Tennyson’s ‘The Lotos-Eaters’ (… Parry’s grand setting of it)… Montaigne, in his Essays, takes a more analytical approach … Joseph Crosby Lincoln … the grasshopper who lives for the moment in his retelling of Aesop’s famous fable… self-proclaimed ‘member of the undeserving poor’ Alfred Doolittle for letting things take their course in My Fair Lady … Scottish-born poet Robert W. Service, who, echoing Jerome and Mole, declares that while it’s noble enough for others to sweat, ‘pounds and dollars to get’, it’s just as grand ‘doing nothing at all’.
BBC - BBC Radio 3 Programmes - Words and Music, Idleness

Keith Owen: “Think big! Plant a million bulbs!”

The SVA is asking for volunteers to help with the latest stage in its bulb-planting project:
Sid Vale Association - creating the valley of a million bulbs
178,000 down...822,000 to go! Bulbs bid to continue - News - Sidmouth Herald

Here's a nice piece from Canada from last year - telling the story of how Keith Owen urged the project forward:

Canadian Keith Owen leaves fortune to seaside UK town

Owen suggested town 'think outside the box' with money

When a dying man suggests you plant a million bulbs — you do it.
When a dying man suggests you plant a million bulbs — you do it.PHOTO: (SID VALE ASSOCIATION)
Published: August 28, 2013, 11:16 am
Updated: 11 months ago

An idyllic seaside town in the U.K. will be brightened up by a million flowers thanks to the generosity of a Canadian man.
In 2007, Keith Owen was diagnosed with incurable lung cancer. Although born in the U.K., Owen had settled down as an investment banker in Ottawa and eventually became a citizen.
Keith Owen passed away in 2007. (Sid Vale Association)
Keith Owen passed away in 2007. (Sid Vale Association)
Although Owen was a globe-trotter who had seen “most of the world except for the North and South poles,” he had a soft spot for Sidmouth, a former fishing village perched on the coast of the English Channel in Devon, where his mother lived and he often visited.
When Owen found out he had only weeks to live, the childless divorcee chose to leave £2.3 million fortune to Sidmouth’s Sid Vale Association, a 160-year-old organization dedicated to preserving the town’s charm and community. The funds included his retirement savings, pension and properties.
He passed away in Sidmouth in December 2007 at 69 years old.
Shortly before his death Owen told civic leaders in Sidmouth to think outside the box when it came time to spend the money.
“‘Think big! Plant a million bulbs!” he told them.
And now, Sidmouth is doing just that.
The town is beginning the process of gathering one million bulbs to be planted in 50 different places across the town, starting with 153,000 bulbs this year, according to the Sid Vale Association website.
Some of the bulbs ready to be planted as per Owen's suggestion. (Sid Vale Association)

Some of the bulbs ready to be planted as per Owen’s suggestion. (Sid Vale Association)

“He loved Sidmouth so much he wanted to leave enough money to ensure it could be preserved,'” Handel Bennett, chairman of the Keith Owen Fund, told the Daily Mail.
Another £400,000 of the fortune has already gone to local volunteer organizations.
“Keith Owen saw voluntary action as evidence of a community at peace with itself,” said Bennett.
Passing through Sidmouth sometime soon? You can register to help plant the bulbs here.

Canadian Keith Owen leaves fortune to seaside UK town | canada.com

However, not everyone thinks this project is 'a good thing':
Futures Forum: Biodiversity in Sidmouth: "Is planting a million bulbs a 'good thing'?" ... a second take

A comment left recently on this blog questions why so much money should be spent on flowers:
Futures Forum: Keith Owen Fund: one million bulbs: story goes international

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The 3-day week: "Is this a charitable proposal wrapped in a business opportunity?"

The debate on shorter working hours is hotting up:
Futures Forum: "We should work less"... "But it's for part-time work, and it's all about the illusion of there being more jobs"

... with more ideas from the world's second richest man:

The Carlos Slim three-day week is a great idea

July 23, 2014 11:26 am By Michael Skapinker

A shorter week would work for many if their companies have the imagination to agree to it

Carlos Slim’s proposal that we work a three-day week sounds crazy. But many, in 1922, thought Henry Ford crazy when he announced that his staff would work a five-day week.

Our working week seems normal to us because it is what we have always known and what everyone else does. In much, but not all, of the world, Saturdays and Sundays are days off. But if you are old enough, you can remember when it was normal for people to work on Saturday mornings too.

So could Mr Slim, the Mexican telecoms boss and the world’s second-richest man, be heralding a change in working life to match Ford’s?

He certainly could be for those he was most concerned about when he made his three-day-week statement at a business conference in Paraguay: the workers who are not ready to retire.

As Mr Slim said, it no longer makes sense for people to stop working in their fifties or sixties when they may still have up to a third of their lives ahead of them. “People are going to have to work for more years, until they are 70 or 75, and just work three days a week – perhaps 11 hours a day,” he said.

Keeping older employees at work makes sense for societies, especially those with a diminishing number of young people who are expected to support long-living pensioners.

It also makes sense for older employees: a mix of work and leisure is what many want. “With three work days a week, we would have more time to relax; for quality of life. Having four days [off] would be very important to generate new entertainment activities and other ways of being occupied,” the 74-year- old Mr Slim said.

He appeared to be suggesting that these short-week workers earn the same as they did full-time. That is what happens at Telmex, his Mexican fixed-line phone company, where those eligible for retirement can opt to work four-day weeks on full pay.

Older workers elsewhere might prefer shorter weeks at reduced pay – and eight or nine-hour days rather than 11. Their companies might value retaining their experience while saving money on their salaries.

What about everyone else? There are those who are unemployed, or in tenuous jobs, or on zero-hours contracts, who would be delighted to have three secure, well-paid days of work a week.

Others in hospitals, supermarkets and petrol stations have to work at night, as well as on the weekends that Ford made rest days for his employees.

But a shorter week would work for many others if their companies have the imagination to agree to it.

I have managed about a dozen working parents (almost all women) on three or four-day weeks. They have, in almost all cases, been more productive and industrious than their five-day week colleagues. They were generally more focused and better organised.

Shorter weeks don’t work in every job, but they work in more jobs than most tradition-bound managers think. Agreeing to them requires two shifts in management thinking. The first is the realisation that much of the time spent in offices is wasted anyway. (And most of the emails sent outside working hours are unnecessary. We coped before we had the technology to send them.)

Senior managerial working hours are often the least necessary of all. Henry Mintzberg, the Canadian management writer, discovered that top executives buzzed around without focusing for too long on anything.

Sir Gerry Robinson, once head of Granada, the television group, told the Financial Times: “I’ve always worked short hours. You make very sure that you do not spend time doing things that are not important.”

Second, senior executives need to understand that the best way to measure people is by the work they produce – not by how much time they spend at their desks.

Above all, managers need to grasp that people’s lives have changed. They have children, and elderly, needy parents. There are years when their children require them more and others when they need them less. If companies are serious, particularly, about promoting women, they need to take this into account. At a lunch I attended in Hong Kong last month for Asian company in-house lawyers, the women spoke about how important flexible working was to advancing their careers.

People living longer, in better health, are changing working life too. Mr Slim’s idea is in tune with the times.

The Carlos Slim three-day week is a great idea - FT.com

And from the New Economics Foundation - who have done a lot of research on the topic:

10 reasons for a shorter working week

Photo credit:   Andrew Dallos
JULY 29, 2014 // BY: ANNA COOTE

Telecoms billionaire Carlos Slim last week became the latest, perhaps unlikely, advocate of transforming our work-life balance. Speaking at a business conference in Paraguay, Slim suggested that a new three-day working week could and should become the norm. This follows the call for a four-day week from leading UK doctor, John Aston, earlier this month.
NEF has long called for shorter and more flexible hours of paid work, firstly in our report 21 Hours and more recently in our book Time on Our Side. Any move towards a shorter working week would need to be implemented gradually, alongside efforts to strengthen wage levels across the economy. But as long as that’s understood, there are clear benefits for environment, economy and society: 
  1. A smaller carbon footprint: Countries with shorter average hours tend to have a smaller ecological footprint. As a nation, the UK is currently consuming well beyond its share of natural resource. Moving out of the fast lane would take us away from the convenience-led consumption that is damaging our environment, and leave time for living more sustainably.
  1. A stronger economy: If handled properly, a move towards a shorter working week would improve social and economic equality, easing our dependence on debt-fuelled growth – key ingredients of a robust economy. It would be competitive, too: the Netherlands and Germany have shorter work weeks than Britain and the US, yet their economies are as strong or stronger.
  1. Better employees: Those who work less tend to be more productive hour for hour than those regularly pushing themselves beyond the 40 hours per week point.  They are less prone to sickness and absenteeism and make up a more stable and committed workforce.
  1. Lower unemployment: Average working hours may have spiralled, but they are not spread equally across our economy – just as some find themselves working all hours of the day and night, others struggle to find work at all. A shorter working week would help to redistribute paid and unpaid time more evenly across the population.
  1. Improved well-being: Giving everybody more time to spend as they choose would greatly reduce stress levels and improve overall well-being, as well as mental and physical health. Working less would help us all move away from the current path of living to work, working to earn and earning to consume. It would help us all to reflect on and appreciate the things that we truly value in life.
  1. More equality between men and women: Women currently spend more time than men doing unpaid work. Moving towards a shorter working week as the ‘norm’ would help change attitudes about gender roles,  promote more equal shares of paid and unpaid work, and help revalue jobs traditionally associated with women’s work. 
  1. Higher quality, affordable childcare: The high demand for childcare stems partly from a culture of long working hours which has spiralled out of control. A shorter working week would help mothers and fathers better balance their time, reducing the costs of full-time childcare. As well as bringing down the cost of childcare, working fewer hours would give parents more time to spend with their children. This opportunity for more activities, experiences and two-way teaching and learning would have benefits for mothers and fathers, as well as their children.
  1. More time for families, friends and neighbours.  Spending less time in paid work would enable us to spend more time with and care for each other – our parents, children, friends and neighbours – and to value and strengthen all the relationships that make our lives worthwhile and help to build a stronger society.
  1. Making more of later life: A shorter and more flexible working week could make the transition from employment to retirement much smoother, spread over a longer period of time.  People could reduce their hours gradually over a decade or more.  Shifting suddenly  from long hours to no hours of paid work can be traumatic, often causing illness and early death.
  1. A stronger democracy: We’d all have more time to participate in local activities, to find out what’s going on around us, to engage in politics, locally and nationally, to ask questions and to campaign for change.

10 reasons for a shorter working week | New Economics Foundation

There's been a lot of interest in Carlos Slim's proposals:
Carlos Slim, richest man in the world, says you should only work THREE days per week | Mail Online
The working week: cutting back on hours has many advantages | Observer editorial | Comment is free | The Observer

Meanwhile, the issue of 'part-time work' rears its ugly head:
Why Being a Part-Time Worker Is Miserable - Bloomberg View

"Is this a charitable proposal wrapped in a business opportunity?"

Billionaire Carlos Slim Wants 3 Day Work Week - YouTube

See also:
Futures Forum: "A shorter working week would make us healthier, give us more fulfilling and sustainable lives and be better for the environment..."