Are You Ready for the 21-hour Work Week?

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If study after study shows a connection between leisure and productivity, why are we being worked to exhaustian in the name of production? In the United Kingdom, the New Economics Forum has released a report called 21 hours calling for a new work-week norm. “Each person in Britain already works an average of 20 hours a week if you spread working hours evenly across the population,” reports Zoe Cormier in the New Internationalist:

It all comes down to what we consider ‘work’: what labour we think is worth paying for. If all the time spent in the UK on unpaid labour–raising children, cooking, household chores and so on–were paid at the minimum wage, it would account for 21 percent of the country’s GDP.

…Rather than allowing the labour to remain unaccounted (and underappreciated), we could “redistribute paid labour, reduce the differential between paid and unpaid work, and make better use of assets,” says [Commissioner for Health with the UK Sustainable Development Commission Anne] Coote.

“Having the normal working week could solve a litany of social problems,” writes Cormier, and it could have an effect on climate change as well:

The Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research estimates that is Americans were to work the same number of hours as Europeans (who work up to 300hours less per year) they would reduce their carbon footprint by up to 30 percent. Less time spent at a factory or office translates into less time spent driving to work, less energy consumed in the building or on the road, and fewer materials used in production.

“While we can always make more stuff,” says Cormier, “we can’t make more time–each of us only has so many grains of sand in our hourglass. As difficult as our mortality may be to contemplate, we each need to learn that our lives are not going to get longer–and in fact, the stress of punishing schedules and sedentary jobs can shorten them.”

Source: New Internationalist (article not yet available online)

Image by pizzodisevo, licensed under Creative Commons.

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