What if working one day less was necessary to live better?

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For starters, because it benefits us all. And, as we will see, we have plenty of reasons.

We've been working the same hours for over 100 years. On May 1, 1886, 200,000 workers began the historic strike in Chicago that would end with the achievement of the right that still governs the world of work. In Europe it took 30 more years to become a reality. It was the USSR in 1917 the first country to grant it. In Spain, which was the second, it happened after the Canadian Strike in 1919. Since then productivity has multiplied several times and yet we still work the same 8 hours a day as we did 100 years ago. Someone has benefited greatly from all this and it is certainly not the majority. Let's continue.

The situation of ecological overshoot and shortages of energy and materials already evident - the cost of all energy sources is rising, making the entire supply chain more expensive and strained - makes the proposal to reduce the working day even more attractive. Reducing the number of journeys, and therefore emissions, would be a direct and obvious consequence with immediate effects. In addition, working less will probably mean producing a little less, what is necessary, and thus being able to value it more. It is a way of softening our impact on the planet and easing our pressure on material and energy resources. The ecological part of the proposal is the most unquestionable. We have 2: sharing the benefits of productivity gains and responding better to the climate and energy challenge. But there is more.

We are not theorizing. The measure has already been implemented in a number of places, through pilot projects co-funded by individual governments seeking to see on the ground the real impacts of reducing the working day to 4 days. 32 hours a week. And the results are absolutely conclusive.

In Iceland, for example: the country of cold and volcanoes chose to carry out this experiment for four years without salary reduction and researchers claim that the result has been favorable for both companies and workers. Companies have seen an improvement in productivity, The researchers claim that the result has been favourable for both companies and workers. For their part, the employees have increased their well-being and reduced their stress. The squaring of the circle. There are other examples where it has been implemented in specific regions or companies that would have to be analyzed in detail and with many nuances, but seem to lead to similar results. There are already three reasons. In Spain It has been agreed to make a pilot project with 50 million euros that should reach between 200 and 400 companies so that, in exchange for financial aid, reduce the working day of workers without loss of wages for them.

It is no coincidence that this proposal is gaining momentum, especially in those countries that are part of the countries that are part of the Wellbeing Economy Alliance: which currently comprises Scotland, New Zealand, Iceland, Wales and Finland. These countries are willing to abandon GDP as a measure and move towards an economy that takes into account the principles of a new framework of thinking. A new approach that understands limits, ecology, basic needs, collective care for the commons. An approach that does not fall into the errors that have weighed down almost every economic proposal known in recent centuries: productivism and expansionism. Both are recipes for disaster.

And another of the most important is still missing: this measure would improve family reconciliation. It would be an important part of an economy that would take more account of care, the great forgotten ones in the current economy. And whose weight falls mainly on women. That is to say, it also has a clearly feminist part that adds to the environmentalist, social justice and long-term benefits for all. So, where are the arguments against it? Why is it not applied immediately?

This is perhaps the most complicated part. But at the same time it is terribly simple. The main reason is called inertia. We find it hard to change habits. Much more if those habits are part of a global system. Moreover, we live in turbulent times in which there is not exactly a great stability. Such a change would make some sectors in some specific countries less competitive if it is not applied all over the world at the same time. That is one of the few arguments put forward by the 'no' camp that makes any sense. Another argument is that there are certain sectors where some of the positive effects will not be found. For example, a psychologist or a general practitioner can hardly increase productivity in one hour of their time. So we'll have to look at the applicability sector by sector, but no doubt we are facing a proposal that is very much in the present and that is destined in the future to be increasingly immersed in the debates on how to improve working conditions, and on how to reduce our impact on the ecosystems that sustain us.

The argument that the economy is going to collapse is no longer valid. It was said that it was going to happen with the 8-hour day a century ago, and the opposite happened.

That is simply the argument of those who benefit from a system that undervalues many essential jobs. What's more, it seems to be the case that having more free time does not exactly reduce people's consumption. And if the economy is at risk, it is by following recipes from the 18th century -we are back to the problematic inertias-, from when the world did not seem finite. The advantages of this proposal are unquestionable. The timehas cometo try different things to getbetterresults. And although things may become more complicated for other reasons, it will not be because of the reduction of the working day, but because we have been doing the opposite for too long, so much so that we have exhausted a large part of the resources. Taking better care of them while devoting more time to ourselves is not only possible, it is necessary.

About the Author

Juan Bordera

Journalist and content creator.

December 13, 2021 — Juan Bordera

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