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VIDEO & Research: A 15-hour working week by 2030

According to  Jasper Bergink, we are getting close to John Maynard Keynes’ expectations 85 years back, that in the future, people would only work fifteen hours a week.

Doesn’t it sound utopian to work only four/five hours per day, four or five days per week?
Or is it really feasible to do this within the next fifteen years?

image54In his essay on “The Economic Possibilities of Our Grandchildren” in 1930, John Maynard Keynes wrote: In hundred years,the standard of life in progressive countries would be four to eight times higher than in 1930… and  a fifteen-hour working week would be necessary to fairly divide the available work across the population.

Considering the gap between current working hours of 35 to 40 hours for most  – the number of hours stands at 42 in Greece; in Germany and the Netherlands, the average is around 30. In the latter two, these figures are skewed by the high proportion of part-time workers, but also can be seen as a sign of high labour productivity. And surprisingly, it’s not Americans or Japanese that put in most hours. Instead, the workaholics of the OECD live in Mexico, at 2238 hours per year and some 45 per year, the average person’s working week is some 50% longer than in Germany and the Netherlands.

Working hours in euro area and selected third countries. Source: OECD

Working hours in euro area and selected third countries (click to enlarge) Source: OECD

A retirement home in Gothenburg started to experiment with a 30-hour working week. Nurses tell researchers they feel they have more energy. The experiment is funded with a subsidy of around 500,000 euros to compensate for the higher number of staff needed to care for the residents.

But other examples cited in another article, such as creative and service industries, suggest that not so much more staff is needed. People still want to do a good job, and may achieve similar levels of productivity in six hours as in eight, says an app developer. With some testing and refinement, wouldn’t we able to get this rolled out by 2020?

From the perspective of the new economics foundation, getting down to 30 hour working week is good, but only halfway there. In a pamphlet and a TEDx talk, researcher Anna Coote argued for a 21-hour working week ambition. She argues that shorter working weeks would have a range of social and environmental advantages. For instance, it would distribute work more evenly across society, and hence reduce unemployment, and increase our ecological footprint.

A 15-hour working week by 2030?

American dream salesman and self-help author Tim Ferriss wrote a well-known book entitled the ‘Four-Hour Working Week‘. In the book, he explains that for most entrepreneurs, a small amount of clients brings in most of the revenue. As such, by focusing on these, outsourcing all support functions, and living in low-cost countries, Ferriss claims it is possible to only work four hours a week.

About Dr. Ev D'aMigo; PhD

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