Sunday, 13 July 2014

"We should work less"... "But it's for part-time work, and it's all about the illusion of there being more jobs"

There has been wall-to-wall coverage of the Google founder's pronouncements on work:

"We should work less" says Google co-founder Larry Page

08 Jul 2014 by Guy Wright

Fireside chat with Google co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin with Vinod Khosla - YouTube

In a recent interview Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin said that perhaps it’s time to re-think the traditional 40 hour work week mentality.

According to Larry Page, “If you really think about the things that you need to make yourself happy—housing, security, opportunities for your kids—anthropologists have been identifying these things. It’s not that hard for us to provide those things,” he said. “The amount of resources we need to do that, the amount of work that actually needs to go into that is pretty small. I’m guessing less than 1% at the moment. So the idea that everyone needs to work frantically to meet people’s needs is just not true.”

"We should work less" says Google co-founder Larry Page [VIDEO] | ITProPortal.com
Google founder says people shouldn't work so much (which is easy to say when you're worth $32 billion) | Mail Online
Larry Page: Billionaire Google co-founder says ‘People shouldn’t work as much’ - People - News - The Independent
"Rush, why would the Google guys be all in favor of more part-time jobs?"

It's done to disguise the fact that there are fewer jobs. Look, we've got 95 to a hundred million Americans not working, right? Well, that's even an embarrassment to the socialists. So if you convert a significant number of full-time jobs to part-time jobs, you can end up hiring people. You don't have to create any new jobs whatsoever.

You don’t have to create a single new job. We just divvy every job up into two or three jobs, make everybody a part-timer, and they're working. Then you say, 'Look what we've done!'

'We expanded the number of people working. We bring down unemployment. We bring down that number.' But it's for part-time work, and it's all about the illusion of there being more jobs -- and, in fact, we are seeing that in our own jobs reports. It's sort of a form of featherbedding, if you want to look at it that way. But the point of it is that the whole idea of full-time work not possible in America anymore. Those days are gone.

That's the mind-set that's problematic.

Why the Google Guys (and All Leftists) Want More Part-Time Workers - The Rush Limbaugh Show

And taking this District as an example, 'job-creation' is often about part-time, low-paid work:
Futures Forum: East Devon, the retail sector and questions about job creation: "How we can help meet the needs of business into the future in a world of enterprise and entrepreneurism..."
Futures Forum: "The new build for the western growth area of the district will provide much-needed business and employment for the young families as they set up new homes."
Futures Forum: "Statistics show us that small and medium-size businesses (including those in tourism) are our life blood."

This blog has looked at the issue of bringing down the number of hours we work:
Futures Forum: The 21-hour week: 'The British have solved unemployment'
Futures Forum: "A shorter working week would make us healthier, give us more fulfilling and sustainable lives and be better for the environment..."

A report on how we spend our time and why we need a shorter working week came out late last year:
Time on Our Side | New Economics Foundation
Work & Time | New Economics Foundation

And a similar report was published back in February 2010:
21 hours | New Economics Foundation

- and the video on YouTube is still generating regular comment:

About Time - 21 hours - YouTube

A very nice place to live, retire or holiday in is, of course, Devon 
- where you should be able to take it very easy:
Futures Forum: East Devon and toursim
Futures Forum: An idea for improving Sidmouth: making the town more pedestrian friendly

Tom Hodgkinson, editor of the Idler, lives in Devon. 
He has been suggesting a shorter working week and more 'idling' time for some time now:
Campaigners call for 30-hour working week to allow for healthier, fairer society - and more time for fun - UK Politics - UK - The Independent
The virtue of idleness - Tom Hodgkinson

Others might call it 'slacking':

Tech N9ne Slacker Video (Uncensored) HQ - YouTube

But a recent article in the New Yorker asked a simple question at the heart of this debate:

How did we get so busy?

Once, we were warned about a future of overabundant leisure. Now we’re busy complaining about being busier than ever.

Once, we were warned about a future of overabundant leisure. Now we’re busy complaining about being busier than ever. 


In the winter of 1928, John Maynard Keynes composed a short essay that took the long view. It was titled “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren,” and in it Keynes imagined what the world would look like a century hence. By 2028, he predicted, the “standard of life” in Europe and the United States would be so improved that no one would need to worry about making money. “Our grandchildren,” Keynes reckoned, would work about three hours a day, and even this reduced schedule would represent more labor than was actually necessary.

“Most types of material consumption are strongly habit-forming,” Gary Becker and Luis Rayo observe in their contribution to “Revisiting Keynes.” (Becker, who died earlier this month, spent his career at the University of Chicago; Rayo is now at the London School of Economics.) “After an initial period of excitement, the average consumer grows accustomed to what he has purchased and . . . rapidly aspires to own the next product in line,” they write. By Becker and Rayo’s account, this insatiability is hardwired into us. Human beings evolved “so that they have reference points that adjust upwards as their circumstances improve.”

Joseph Stiglitz, of Columbia University, by contrast, takes a constructivist approach. People’s choices, he argues, are molded by society and, over time, become self-reinforcing. We “learn how to consume by consuming,” he writes, and how to “enjoy leisure by enjoying leisure.” In support of this position, Stiglitz cites the contrasting experiences of Europeans and Americans. In the nineteen-seventies, the British, the French, and the Germans—though notably not the Italians—put in just as many hours at work as Americans. But then, à la Keynes, the Europeans began trading income for leisure. The average employed American now works roughly a hundred and forty hours more per year than the average Englishman and three hundred hours more than the average Frenchman.

A third group of economists challenges the Keynesian presumption that leisure is preferable to labor. Work may not set us free, but it lends meaning to our days, and without it we’d be lost. In the view of Edward Phelps, of Columbia University, a career provides “most, if not all, of the attainable self-realization in modern societies.” Richard Freeman, of Harvard, is, if possible, more emphatic. “Hard work is the only way forward,” he writes. “There is so much to learn and produce and improve that we should not spend more than a dribble of time living as if we were in Eden. Grandchildren, keep trucking.”

Elizabeth Kolbert: Why Are We So Busy? : The New Yorker

And an earlier article in the New Yorker made similar points - and asks why professional people need to overwork:

The perplexing thing about the cult of overwork is that, as we’ve known for a while, long hours diminish both productivity and quality. Among industrial workers, overtime raises the rate of mistakes and safety mishaps; likewise, for knowledge workers fatigue and sleep-deprivation make it hard to perform at a high cognitive level. 

If the benefits of working fewer hours are this clear, why has it been so hard for businesses to embrace the idea? Simple economics certainly plays a role: in some cases, such as law firms that bill by the hour, the system can reward you for working longer, not smarter. And even if a person pulling all-nighters is less productive than a well-rested substitute would be, it’s still cheaper to pay one person to work a hundred hours a week than two people to work fifty hours apiece. (In the case of medicine, residents work long hours not just because it’s good training but also because they’re a cheap source of labor.) 

On top of this, the productivity of most knowledge workers is much harder to quantify than that of, say, an assembly-line worker. So, as Bob Pozen, a former president of Fidelity Management and the author of “Extreme Productivity,” a book on slashing work hours, told me, “Time becomes an easy metric to measure how productive someone is, even though it doesn’t have any necessary connection to what they achieve.”


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