The Dream of a Four-Day Work Week

From www.money.cnn.com

What would you do with your time if you only had to work four, three, or even two days a week?

Decades ago, experts predicted we would all be working just 14 to 15 hours a week by now, and would have so much free time, we wouldn't even know what to do with ourselves.

 

The predictions: Back in 1930, renowned economist John Maynard Keynes predicted technological advancements would mean we would all eventually work just 15 hours a week. That same year, evolutionary biologist Julian Huxley predicted the two-day work week. Both men warned that someday, we would have so much leisure time, we would be bored out of our minds.

"The human being can consume so much and no more," Huxley said in 1930. "When we reach the point when the world produces all the goods that it needs in two days, as it inevitably will, we must curtail our production of goods and turn our attention to the great problem of what to do with our new leisure."

More recently, a 1965 Senate subcommittee predicted we would be working 14 hours a week by the year 2000, with at least seven weeks of vacation time.

The reality: These great thinkers were right about one thing. Technological progress has made workers more productive than ever before.

Yet rather than cutting the work week gradually over time (like the Europeans did), productivity gains have fueled a consumerism boom in the United States. So instead of taking time off, Americans are just buying much more stuff.

Benjamin Hunnicutt, a historian at the University of Iowa, calls the shorter workweek the "forgotten American dream."

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May 19, 2007

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