Four-day workweek: towards a fairer economic model?

In June 1930 the British economist John Maynard Keynes he was in Madrid giving a conference titled “The financial potentialities of our grandchildren”.

Keynes then predicted that in about 100 years Europeans would attain a degree of technological improvement that might facilitate the discount of the working week to only 15 hours. Related forecasts have been made once more within the postwar interval, particularly in the course of the 1960s and 1970s. Even within the early eighties, the thinker André Gorz wrote: “The abolition of labor is a course of that’s already underway (…) the methods to handle this course of represent an important political debate of the subsequent a long time.”

Nearly 100 years have handed and Keynes’s prophecy has but to be fulfilled.

Productiveness, precariousness, morality

In 1919, after the strike on the Barcelona manufacturing facility in The Canadian, Spain was the primary nation to approve the 8-hour workday. In 2021, the Authorities has simply began a pilot plan, supported with European funds, to check the work week 4 days.

Most industrial international locations haven’t considerably modified the 40-hour workweek, achieved in the course of the union struggles of the 1970s. In keeping with knowledge from the OECD, in 2019, in Spain, a median of 1,686 hours have been labored, effectively lower than the two,137 hours in Mexico, however virtually 300 hours greater than in Denmark. Why will we proceed to work virtually the identical hours as our grandparents?

Essential primary earnings experiments world wide

Keynes argued that the discount within the working day could be produced by a sustained enhance in productiveness, primarily on account of technological innovation. It’s true that now, due to innovation, we quickly produce extra issues with fewer sources.

Because the 1950s, productiveness, particularly within the industrialized OECD international locations, has grown steadily. Nonetheless, neither the hours labored nor the remuneration per hour labored has adopted an evolution proportional to this sample. The clearest case is that of the US, the place because the 1970s the rise in productiveness has not had a major affect on the hourly compensation of North American staff.

Fuente: Kochan, T., & Kimball, W. (2019). Unions, Employee Voice, and Administration Practices: Implications for a Excessive-Productiveness, Excessive-Wage Financial system. RSF: The Russell Sage Basis Journal of the Social Sciences, 5(5), 88-108.

As well as, it’s clearly seen how, from the tip of the seventies, coinciding with the Thatcher-Reagan period, will increase in productiveness have been feeding the earnings of capital to the detriment of wages that, a minimum of within the West, haven’t been elevated in a proportional approach to technological improvement. Moreover, in some sectors wages have progressively misplaced their buying energy, jobs are more and more precarious and their circumstances extra unfavorable. Many younger folks in Europe are unemployed, others are struggling to search out secure work, and the variety of working poor (that’s, folks struggling to outlive regardless of having a job) has risen alarmingly.

Within the UK, two-thirds of the Eight million folks residing under the poverty line they have a stable job. In keeping with the Spanish union UGTIn 2020, in Spain, 12.7% of staff would fall into the class of poor staff. If to this state of affairs we add the affect of the digital technologies, which vastly will increase particular person productiveness by staying related 24 hours a day, we may additionally add the rise in stress and efficient working hours.

Not solely have we not been capable of work 15 hours per week, however we’ve additionally multiplied the calls ineffective jobs. The just lately deceased anthropologist David Graeber paperwork in his guide “Shit Jobs”The phenomenon of the proliferation of jobs thought-about by the identical staff as ineffectiveIn different phrases, they don’t add any worth to society or are even dangerous to it. Graeber estimated that between 20% and 30% of staff within the Anglo-Saxon world thought-about their work ineffective.

How is it attainable, he questioned, {that a} system that’s imagined to be essentially the most environment friendly of all, produces ineffective and dangerous jobs for society, the atmosphere and the individuals who do them? Graeber concluded that work just isn’t merely one thing that industrial society wants to provide wealth, however is, above all, an ethical crucial.

Our society doesn’t conceive another logic than that of work exhausting and you’ll obtain your desires. It’s the Protestant ethic at its best. In keeping with this view, industrial capitalism retains us in a relentless state of hysteria to get a job that dignifies us morally, paying the worth of ending up doing horrible and dangerous jobs in order to not endure the stigma of unemployment.

A brand new world: post-growth and post-work

Work as an ethical crucial blends completely with one other faith of our time: financial development. If the GDP has to develop in a sustained method a minimal of three% a yr, it’s completely understood how a discount in working hours just isn’t a viable possibility. Nonetheless, the thought of ​​infinite development has been questioned for years by scientists and extra just lately by a rising variety of economists.

Right now we all know that organizing the economic system to realize a relentless enhance in an indicator resembling GDP just isn’t solely damaging to the atmosphere, which provides plentiful however not infinite sources, but in addition, after a sure level, stops producing well-being.

For years, consultants such because the Catalan economist Joan Martinez Alier they denounce the folly of pursuing infinite development. Extra just lately, teachers like Tim Jackson and Kate Raworth, and even EU companies, have urgently proposed the necessity to create a post-growth economic system. The thought is {that a} society can prosper with out having to extend its manufacturing and consumption indefinitely.

One attainable resolution could be to create a post-growth financial system primarily based on qualitative indicators way more complicated and correct than GDP. A post-growth world also needs to be a post-work world, the place that is not an ethical crucial however a vital, however not central, factor within the improvement of individuals’s well-being.

In concrete phrases, this means a radical redistribution of wealth and a change in funding of productiveness positive factors. Part of these earnings must be used to proceed innovating and the remainder to progressively cut back the hours labored, till reaching a minimal that enables an honest and passable life.

As well as, a discount in working hours would assist household reconciliation and social and private life, growing the time dedicated to different actions that enhance normal well-being (artwork, sports activities, and so forth.).

Will Spain transition to a post-work economic system?

In Spain this debate is lengthy overdue. Even most progressives stay anchored within the paradigm of the work ethic. It continues to affirm we’re poor as a result of we’re not productive, ignoring the truth that a rise in productiveness and not using a distribution of its advantages would enhance the inequalities that already have an effect on the nation.

To all this, we add the neoliberal recipes of the EU that require us to increase our working life, reforming pensions. The alternative of what we’d like for a transition to a post-work economic system. Commerce unions and progressive events must be reflecting on these points to develop extra bold insurance policies on this regard.

The proposal to expertise a 4-day workday whereas conserving the identical wage just lately introduced by More Country-Equo goes on this course. Nonetheless, this must be accompanied by a debate on the problem of hierarchies and possession of productive items, firms and factories.

Organizations the place staff have extra decision-making energy, or the place they even handle themselves, show to be extra favorable areas for the implementation of a paradigm primarily based on the thought of ​​post-work. Circumstances just like the Lucas Plan in the UK present that, if staff determine what and the right way to produce, the outcomes are typically applied sciences which can be extra appropriate with well-being and with essentially the most favorable working circumstances.

My job, or that of teachers resembling Martin Parker in Bristol or JK Gibson-Graham, spotlight the worth of self-management experiences to create more healthy and fairer work environments. These measures may be accompanied by pilot experiments to implement common primary earnings or care income, that acknowledge the invisible work of caregivers inside houses.

There is no such thing as a doubt that the shift from an economic system primarily based on indefinite materials development to at least one primarily based on prosperity with out development will meet with enemies and detractors on either side of the political spectrum. Many of those obstacles are undoubtedly already in educational settings.

A extra plural academy

Heterodox economists like Piero Sraffa at the start of the final century and extra just lately teachers like Steve Keen, amongst others, have systematically dismantled the postulates of neoclassical concept. In actuality, we all know {that a} hyper-flexible labor market will increase inequality and job insecurity.

In Spain, the overwhelming majority of economics colleges are dominated by neoclassical financial thought that promotes the free market and the “non-intervention” of the State. However we’re in a second of transition the place it appears clear that the capitalist mannequin primarily based on infinite development reveals its limits, though the brand new paradigm of society, primarily based on post-growth and post-work, remains to be in its embryonic state.

What did you say Antonio Gramsci, “The previous world dies. The brand new one takes time to seem. And on this chiaroscuro the monsters emerge ”. The monsters of local weather change, the destruction of ecosystems and their results, resembling covid-19, are already right here. It’s a must to act quick to alter the mannequin.The Conversation

Mario Pansera, Distinguished Researcher in Enterprise Group and ERC Beginning Grantee, University of Vigo

This text was initially printed on The Conversation. learn the original.