Tuesday, August 04, 2009

A (Serious) Modest Proposal

In line with my previous post, I would like to ask what would be the benefits of moving to a thirty-hour work week from our current forty-hour week? With unemployment continuing to rise, even as the bottom of our current economic slump seems to have been reached, I would like to know if it might not be possible through regulation to increase employment, productivity, purchasing power, and economic growth, as well as reduce various stresses, by offering full-time employment for shorter hours.

Consider, first manufacturing. Even if a plant currently operates two eight-hour shifts, it will still take x man hours to complete a given unit of manufacture. So, with a turnover every six, rather than eight, hours, a third shift would need to be added to complete a given order. More people employed means more people earning money to spend buying not only the goods produced at their own place of employment, but others as well.

Consider, then, retail. Many retail outlets operate three eight-hour shifts in order not only to ensure that goods are on the shelves for customers to buy, but that the retail outlet is clean, the shelves are neat, and the product displayed and accessible for the shopper. The number of man hours needed to do all this work is a function of the limits of human capacity; in other words, it would still take x man hours to get items from a truck standing at the dock to the shelves, and to have the store clean and ready for shoppers. So, like the manufacturer, if a six-hour day, thirty-hour week rather than an eight-hour day, forty-hour week were instituted, a fourth shift would be necessary to do the work.

I don't know if this is feasible, or realistic. It is, however, a serious proposal, offered for your consideration.

Virtual Tin Cup

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