Noticeable differences already exist among wealthy nations in terms of average hours worked per employee, which, in combination with hourly labor productivity and the percentage of the population that is employed, determine a nation’s level of production. Since the 1970s, a gap has emerged between long-hours nations, such as the United States, and several shorter-hours nations in Europe, including the Netherlands, France, Germany, and the Scandinavian countries. This gap in work hours had become, by the mid-1990s, the main factor behind the United States’ greater output per capita than Europe.Working Less for a Sustainable Future (Solutions)
In effect, in recent decades, American society opted almost exclusively for higher output, while Europeans chose to use at least part of their increase in hourly productivity for greater leisure. They have done so through a range of measures, including standard workweeks of less than 40 hours (e.g., France, Netherlands, Denmark); paid vacations of five or six weeks per year (several countries); generous parental leaves (e.g., Scandinavia); educational and sabbatical leave options (e.g., Denmark, Belgium); and rights for employees to choose shorter work hours while keeping the same hourly pay and prorated benefits (e.g., Netherlands).
While advocates of work-time reduction have highlighted the potential ecological benefits for many years, empirical evidence has emerged recently to support these claims. A study by two American economists found a significant association between work hours and energy consumption.2 Their economic model showed that if European nations adopted American work hours, they would consume some 25 percent more energy (putting their Kyoto Protocol targets out of reach); meanwhile the United States would consume roughly 20 percent less energy if it moved to Europe’s work/leisure balance (putting it within close striking distance of its original Kyoto target).
In comparing member countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) with some non-OECD nations, John Shandra and I found statistical support for the idea that longer work hours are associated with larger ecological footprints.3 The main factor is the contribution of longer work hours to higher gross domestic product, which, in turn, is associated with larger environmental impacts. We also found some evidence of a time-scarcity effect, in which long work hours led to a more environmentally damaging mix of consumption and lifestyle practices, although more research is needed on this specific issue.
One of the best outcomes of less work is the possibility for a better life. Fewer hours worked can open up time for a range of freely chosen and self-directed activities outside of the work-and-spend cycle: more time for friends and family, community involvement, political participation, learning, self-improvement, personal projects, and so on. For many people facing high levels of time pressure and stress, the opportunity to do less and relax more could bring significant physical and mental-health benefits. When France introduced a 35-hour workweek, despite the considerable political controversy and some loss of income growth, the vast majority of employees who gained shorter hours said their overall quality of life improved.5 Meanwhile, studies from Germany show that individuals who work fewer hours have higher levels of life satisfaction; similar evidence at the country level shows that European nations with shorter work hours also have higher levels of life satisfaction.
Sunday, November 3, 2013
Less work = sustainability
If Basic Income is beyond the pale, can we at least agree to take advantage of our productivity:
Posted by escapefromwisconsin at 1:35 PM