Monday, September 05, 2011

Labor Day goal, a 3 day weekend

Update Sept 9 2011. I just found this insightful article about Jobs going obsolete.

Less person hours are needed to run our economy and a lot of workers are idle. Maybe it's time to shorten the workweek again. How about a 32 hour workweek and a 3 day weekend?

The 40 hour workweek was seen as progress over longer workweeks in sweatshops of the past. That accomplishment is one of the things people celebrate on Labor Day, yet for many workers, even the 40 hour week is just a dream. Some are out of work, wishing they had a workweek. Others toil overtime in companies that have downsized and placed more of the burden on remaining workers who often toil beyond 40 hours. Still others work the 40 hours, but when one counts time spent on long distance commutes their day is almost shot. Little time for friends and family, let along sleep and exercise.

It's time to think about distributing work hours more evenly. Create jobs for some people who are currently out of work and maybe reduce the burden on many who are still working while feeling overworked and over stressed. Outcome could be a healthier balance for all and possibly less health care costs.

Rather than proposing legislation to reduce work time, I just propose discussion about the workweek, vacations and the overall economy. A shorter workweek isn't necessarily the solution for everyone, but it's something people can think about. Folks can work out answers for their own situations.

One thing that could help is lower cost of living. Some of the average living expenses seems unnecessary. For instance high rents and mortgages just to prop up inflated property values. Toiling to maintain national wealth is one thing, but toiling just to maintain a bubble seems like a waste of effort.

Technology is kind of a two edged sword. It can create a lot of new jobs and opportunities, thus lowering unemployment, but it also has the effect of reducing the amount of work needed for the same unit of productivity. When our economy is growing, the new opportunities from technology can out pace the tendency of technology reduce the need for work. At other times, especially when the economy isn't growing, technology's effect on reducing the need for labor is more evident. We are now in a real slow growth economy.

Better distribution of existing work burdens is in order.

Part of the reason why the economy is growing slowly is all the environmental restrictions and energy costs. Worries about global warming can put a damper on things. A shorter workweek, and reduced wealth expectations, can help us adjust to these environmental issues. Still, the type of wealth we consume can change so we don't necessarily have to just lower our expectations. New technology can create cleaner production. Still, the advent of cleaner production methods has trouble keeping pace with increasing demand for wealth.

Change in society, rather than just technology, can help us redefine what wealth truly means. More free time and less hassle for the average worker could be seen as a form of wealth. Something like the 3 day weekend could be seen as a form of progress for the economy, as the 40 hour week was once seen as progress.

I would guess that the super wealthy would not like the idea of a shorter work week. It would mean that the masses are not spending as much of their time playing the game that the wealthy tend to be "top dog" at.

What Am I doing indoors typing this essay? Glorious sunny day. I should ride my bike somewhere.

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