12.6.13

OPTING OUT.

A higher income raises the opportunity cost of goofing off.  It also permits its earner to purchase the same bundle of goods and have more time to enjoy it.  Come summertime, it seems necessary to review these ideas.  Maybe it's not about economic theory, but in the dead of winter Via Media suggested that employers consider how incentives matter.
Not surprisingly, a large salary is at the top of every employee’s wish list, with 88 percent of respondents ranking it as a key factor in job satisfaction. But beating out “being able to make a difference” and “challenging work” was a flexible schedule, with 59 percent naming it a key perk.
Sometimes, it's in the aggregation of individual decisions that social change takes place, Juliet Schor's efforts to reiterate traditional arguments from the left.
The first benefit of hours reductions is a significant reduction in unemployment. Maintaining balance in the labour market has always been through reduction in hours of work. Without the advances of a shorter workweek, vacation time, earlier retirement and later labour force entrance, the economies of the OECD would never have attained the "golden age" of high employment that prevailed after the 1930s depression. Between 1870 and 1970, hours of work fell roughly in half. These countries have re-balanced the labour market by re-distributing work to make its allocation fairer. We need shorter hours because it is unrealistic to count on growth in GDP to absorb all this current and future "surplus" labour. Rich countries never grow that rapidly. So the austerity economics that says work longer and retire later has it exactly wrong.benefit of hours reductions is a significant reduction in unemployment. Maintaining balance in the labour market has always been through reduction in hours of work. Without the advances of a shorter workweek, vacation time, earlier retirement and later labour force entrance, the economies of the OECD would never have attained the "golden age" of high employment that prevailed after the 1930s depression. Between 1870 and 1970, hours of work fell roughly in half. These countries have re-balanced the labour market by re-distributing work to make its allocation fairer. We need shorter hours because it is unrealistic to count on growth in GDP to absorb all this current and future "surplus" labour. Rich countries never grow that rapidly. So the austerity economics that says work longer and retire later has it exactly wrong.
Note: a secular decline in working hours beginning in that nasty Gilded Age of capitalist expansion and the Long Depression.  I'm not so sure how reduced working hours necessarily reduce energy use, as all that increased employment will bring increased commuting in its train.  The third benefit she claims, though, is pure income effect.
The second benefit of shorter hours is the time itself. As a growing movement of "downshifters" attests, short hour lifestyles allow people to build stronger social connections, maintain their physical and mental health, and engage in activities that are creative and meaningful. Time is especially valuable in rich countries where material needs can be met for everyone, and deprivation is caused by mal-distribution of income and wealth.
I'm surprised a Guardian essay doesn't include a gripe gripe about how in those rich countries people with additional leisure time might be buying even more toys or otherwise engaging in socially unproductive activities. Maybe getting the incentives to align is more important.  Reclaiming Our Time illustrates one way in which that alignment is occurring.
For those of us working too many hours, one way to take back our time is to substitute future raises with equivalent increases in vacation hours. Many employers are willing to make this substitution because it costs them no more, and for a budget-constrained organization, giving raises in vacation hours may be easier to handle than monetary raises. Surveys indicate that 85 percent of people who have chosen to work fewer hours are very happy with the decision.
The key, though, is for employers and employees alike to treat vacation as vacation, none of this checking your smart-phone for work messages every half hour, into the night, ad infinitum.

The new consensus from the left appears to be the 21 hour workweek.
Twenty-one hours is close to the average that people of working age in Britain spend in paid work and just a little more than the average spent in unpaid work. Experiments with shorter working hours suggest that they can be popular where conditions are stable and pay is favourable, and that a new standard of 21 hours could be consistent with the dynamics of a decarbonised economy.

There is nothing natural or inevitable about what’s considered ‘normal’ today. Time, like work, has become commodified – a recent legacy of industrial capitalism. Yet the logic of industrial time is out of step with today’s conditions, where instant communications and mobile technologies bring new risks and pressures, as well as opportunities. The challenge is to break the power of the old industrial clock without adding new pressures, and to free up time to live sustainable lives.
Is that the same industrial clock under which the working day dwindled in length prior to widespread union organising and the Fair Labor Standards Act?

To steal borrow an Insta Pundit line, all is proceeding as I have foreseen.

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