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It's time to put the 15-hour work week back on the agenda

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21.01.2019

A strange thing happened on the way to the leisure society.

It was once widely anticipated that the process which saw the standard working week fall from 60 to 40 hours in wealthy nations over the first half of the 20th century would continue.

As we now know, this did not happen. The official working week has not fallen significantly in several decades. Average working hours per household have increased. The effect is that many feel that life is now less leisured than in the past.

But why should it be?

Working fewer hours was once seen as an essential indicator of economic and social progress. I explore this history in my book Whatever Happened to the Leisure Society?

It’s time to put reduced working hours back on the political and industrial agenda.

There are strong arguments for working fewer hours. Some are economic. Others are about environmental sustainability. Yet others have to do with equity and equality.

Economists on board

In 1930 the economist John Maynard Keynes speculated that technological change and productivity improvements would make a 15-hour work week an economic possibility within a couple of generations.

A biographer of Keynes, the economic historian Robert Skidelsky, revisited those predictions in his 2012 book How Much Is Enough? He proposed legislating maximum hours of work in most occupations, without any reduction in output or wages, as a way to to achieve a more sustainable economy.

He is not alone. According to a report by the New Economics Foundation, a London-based think-tank, making the normal working week 21........

© International Business Times