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Let's Work Less
Published on January 15, 2012 by Sara Foss

I often yearn for three day weekends. For me, the 32 hour work week would be just about perfect. My basic feeling is that we spent too much time working, and that people neglect their families and friends because they're so concerned about their jobs.

Now, much to my delight, someone is making the case for working less. And not just a little bit less - the New Economics Foundation is advocating for a 21 hour workweek. This would be even better than a 32 hour work week, in my opinion.

According to a post examining the benefits of a 21 hour workweek at fastcoexist.com, "The New Economics Foundation (NEF) says there is nothing natural or inevitable about what’s considered a 'normal' 40-hour work week today. In its wake, many people are caught in a vicious cycle of work and consumption. They live to work, work to earn, and earn to consume things. Missing from that equation is an important fact that researchers have discovered about most material consumption in wealthy societies: so much of the pleasure and satisfaction we gain from buying is temporary, ephemeral, and largely relative to those around us (who strive to consume still more, in a self-perpetuating spiral).

The NEF argues to achieve more satisfying lives we need to challenge social norms and reset the industrial clock in our heads. It sees the 21-hour week as integral to this for two reasons: it will redistribute paid work, offering the hope of a more equal society (right now too many are overworked, or underemployed). At the same time, it would give us all time for the things we value but rarely have time to do well such as care for our family, travel, read or continue learning (as opposed to merely consuming)."

I have one basic question, involving wages. Would a 21 hour work week cut my salary in half? Because that wouldn't be good at all. But if there's a way to ensure a basic quality of life, and have everyone work less, I'm all for it.

The New Economics Foundation is a think tank with a slogan that I really like: "Economics As If People and the Planet Mattered." We need more of that kind of economics!

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