Experts from the New Economics Foundation (NEF) and the Center for Analysis of Social Exclusion at the London School of Economics say that curbing the workweek from 40 to around 20 hours could have a host of positive benefits for individuals, companies and the market in general.
The experts from the NEF think-tank believe that prolonged working schedules, which in some cases exceed 50 and even 60 hours per week, are the main reasons why parents spend so little time with their children, why business and homes are so energy-intensive, and why so many are unemployed.
By reducing the amount of time people would have to work each day, the experts say, it could be possible to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases we release in the atmosphere at any given moment.
Their proposal is also in tune with the latest findings made in studies on the relationship between satisfaction and happiness, on one hand, and macroeconomics and GDP, on the other. Over the past few decades, experts thought that the latter determined the former. The new thinking is that this is false.
Being healthy and spending time with loved ones have been listed as the main sources of happiness by the people themselves, so reduced work schedules may go a long way towards making them satisfied.
“There's a great disequilibrium between people who have got too much paid work, and those who have got too little or none,” NEF expert Anna Coote explains. Achieving an increase in GDP and economic success should not necessarily be the government's first priority.
“Are we just living to work, and working to earn, and earning to consume? There's no evidence that if you have shorter working hours as the norm, you have a less successful economy: quite the reverse,” she adds, referring to the practical cases of both the Netherlands and Germany.
Even some economists are beginning to see that rapid technological changes are causing a major shift in the current societal paradigm. They argue that the government should legislate the maximum working week because there will be even fewer jobs available to the masses in coming years.
The Keynesian economist Robert Skidelsky argues that an emphasis should now be placed on how income and wealth is distributed among the people. The old view – continuously work towards never-ending growth – should be abandoned, since it's obviously not working out.
NEF analysts believe that job-sharing and alternative work patterns should be made a right for every employee, as per The Guardian
. The only way this can be made into a reality is if the proposal is made into law by the government.