Monday, February 06, 2012

Work less hours

We’re hearing all the time that we need to work more, yet unemployment is high – as are stress levels among those who are fortunate to have a job. The new economics foundation (nef) in London recently published a report examining the case for a 21-hour workweek. It’s a radical idea, but in many ways it makes a lot of sense – if you are willing to examine some of the fundamental assumptions in our economy closely.

The launching of the report was marked by a lecture at the London School of Economics from Juliet Schor, Lord Skidelsky and Tim Jackson, all three of them who have been challenging the usual growth model very convincingly.

I can recommend the podcast from the event, it’s very refreshing to hear basic concepts like equality, growth, and well being and productive turned on their heads.

Juliet Schor summarized the three benefits of working shorter hour as:

• shorter hours lead to lower unemployment and more job creation

• shorter hours reduce ecological and carbon footprints

• shorter hours give people more free time, reduce stress, enhance family life and community.

Tim Jackson has a nice comment on the ways that advertising and rampant lending worked, untill very recently:

”We can provide you with money that you don’t have to buy stuff that you don’t need, to create impressions that won’t last on people that you don’t care about. It’s pathological”.

As so often, it boils down to a very fundamental uncertainty and re-thinking of what we want to achieve – how do we define the good life.

Lord Skidelsky is working on it, he’s writing a book, and so far he has summarized it in 7 components:

Health, security, respect and dignity, personality, friendship, harmony with nature and leisure.

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