Sociologist argues shorter work weeks would reduce unemployment

Alongside a report last week suggesting the 40 hour work week was simply a cultural norm we could change, a sociologist argues that shorter work weeks would reduce unemployment levels:

[Juliet Schor, professor of Sociology at Boston College] claimed that working hour reductions have “a long history” of successfully leading to lower rates of unemployment.

“What progressive reductions in working hours financed by productivity do is allow a society to take some or all, depending on its choices, of its economic dividend of the productivity growth that it generates, and use it to give people more leisure time rather than more income,” Prof Schor added…

She cited the example of the Netherlands, where such a policy was implemented in 1980.

The Dutch began a 15-year project to alter the look of the working week, long enough to have a limited, if any, impact on real wages.

I wonder if Americans would like this trade off: fewer hours on the job and less pay for a lower unemployment rate. Would any politician have the guts or political capital to even make this a talking point? Everyone does want to reduce unemployment, don’t they…

At the same time, this could also lead to larger discussions in the United States about the emphasis on productivity and income growth over other desirable outcomes. Could you imagine lots of companies talking about wanting their employees to flourish rather than simply be more productive? Even discussions of living wages seem to focus on properly paying workers so they can survive rather than allowing them to pursue relationships and leisure time.

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