Do we need a 30-hour work week? Let’s talk about it seriously.

How about this for an idea? A mandated 30-hour work week? Recently in The Guardian leading UK social policy voice Anna Coote presented the idea as something that makes sense from many angles – social, environmental and economic.

Image via Design You Trust
Image via Design You Trust

And yet we resist the idea. What are we all waiting for?

Technology and automation was meant to see us work less. So why are we working more? Why aren’t we making the call and pulling back from being so ‘busy’?

Me, I think it’s because we’re all waiting for someone to tell us we can. I’ve talked about the importance of creating our own boundaries many times before – we can’t wait for someone to lay out the red carpet for us. The world doesn’t work like this anymore.

But I do wonder if it’s time this critical matter (for our ‘busy-ness is making us sad and sick) might need to be mandated. If ‘someone else’ needs to step in in this instance.

Coote plays with this idea, too and suggests a 30-hour work week could be phased in:

“Suppose all workers over 50 take a one-hour cut in their working week each year. If they start with a 40-hour week, they can be doing 30 hours at 60 and 20 hours at 70. And suppose all young people entering the labour market for the first time start on a 30-hour week – and stay that way, with each new cohort adding to the numbers, until it becomes the new “normal”.”

She adds that this would need to work in line with higher minimum wages.

She outlines the benefits. They’re many:

“We’d have more control over our lives, more time to look after one another. We could slow down and relax more – and rely less on carbon-intensive fast food and travel. We’d have more time to be active in our communities and in politics. We’d have more time to campaign for a new working culture that respects love, family and friendship instead of fetishising ‘hard work’. And most importantly of all we could build an economy that enables people to flourish, instead of one that is entirely fixated on growth.”

What do you think? Do you feel we need to grab hold of this issue and sort it? So we can take back control of our work?

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