The Overemployment Problem
Published on March 5, 2012 by Sara Foss

We constantly hear about the problems of underemployment and unemployment.

However, over at Jacobin Peter Frase argues that overemployment is also a problem.

Frase writes:

"The lowest estimates of overemployment come from the U.S. Government’s Current Population Survey, which asks people if they 'given the choice, (would) opt for more income and more hours, less income and fewer hours or the same income and hours?', and gives an overemployment rate of around 7 percent, even during recessions. Golden, in the paper linked above, surveyed eight other studies and found a range of estimates of the overemployment rate, from as low as 14 percent to a high of around 70 percent. None of those surveys asked for a specific hours target, while some of them specified that a reduction in hours would be linked to a reduction in income.

 The assumption that reductions in hours should be linked to reductions in pay is in some sense a political one. It’s not common now, but demands like 'thirty hours work for forty hours pay' have a long history in the labor movement. Asking for a cut in hours with no cut in pay is, in the end, just another way of asking for a raise."

The great 1931 French film "A Nous La Liberte" imagines a world where we don't have to work at all.

I'm not sure that's desirable.

But I'd be perfectly happy to work a little bit less.


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