Imagine a single measure that could provide a solution to the three most important aspects of our society today:an unstable economy, environmental degradation and poor quality of life of the population. That is what the 4 Hour Work-Day can provide, and much more. It can even set the path to transition into a new economic model, a model that has incentives to respect people and the environment at the same time. It is time for us to organize and fix once and for all what governments and politicians are unable to fix, by supporting the Global Campaign to institute the 4 Hour Work-day worldwide.
The campaign’s proposal is this: “To reduce the work-day from 8 hours to 4 hours a day without reducing income, through a peaceful and democratic Global Strike.” The transition to the 4 hour work-day will be implemented through periodic reductions of half an hour each month to let the markets adjust, so in 8 months, we would accomplish a 4 hour work-day. But the reduction of working hours would not stay there. A re-evaluation every 10 years will be performed to analyze increases in productivity and if we find that productivity has indeed increased (which is what most likely will happen with the rapid advancements in technology) then another reduction will be applied in proportion to the amount that productivity has increased. That means that, if we find that a 2% average annual increase in productivity occurs, then 30 years after we accomplish the 4 hour work-day we would be working about 2 hours a day only.
The idea of work-time reductions is not something new. John Maynard Keynes, for example, wrote an essay in 1930 called: ”Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren“, where he predicted that the work-day would be reduced to 3 hours a day by 2030. Bertrand Russell and Paul Lafarge also had writings referring to reducing the work day as well, In Praise of Idleness (1932) and The Right to Be Lazy (1883) respectively. More recently, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) published an article in January 1986, advocating for the 4 hour work-day. Juliet Schor, economist, professor of Sociology at Boston College and author of many books including “The Overworked American” and “Plenitude”, argues for work time reductions as a measure to stabilize the world wide economy, protect the environment, and provide a better quality of life for the population. Along with her, the New Economics Foundation (NEF) released a report in 2010 called “21 Hours” calling for a 21 hour work-week as a way to revert the economic crisis and set the path for a more steady state of the global economy. In fact, on January of 2012, Juliet Schor participated in a conference organized by NEF and the London School of Economics where they argued in favor of work time reductions. As you can see, the idea of a 4 hour work-day has been discussed for a long time and it is time to implement it.
And why a strike? you may ask. The 4 hour work-day campaign asks for a peaceful and democratic Global Strike to implement the 4 Hour Work-day worldwide. That is the way it was achieved when we reduced the work-day from 16 to 12 hours a day in the mid 1800’s and again in the early 1900’s when we reduced it from 12 hours to the current 8 hours a day. It would be naive to request that you write your politicians to do it. This measure would not be discussed in any Congress or Parliament at all unless we put pressure on them. It goes too much in favor of the people and against corporations and conventional economics. This measure needs to be imposed by the people going on strike and pressuring the world leaders with the message that we are not going to move forward until this measure is applied worldwide. These are the reasons why we need to reduce the work-day to 4 hours a day (or its equivalent in weeks or months, 20 hours a week, 2 weeks a month, 6 months a year):
- An Economy that works for the people and not the people working for the economy
- An Economy that Respects the Environment
- An Economy that improves the psychological well being of the population
- A Shift of Bargaining Power From the Employer to the Employee
- An Economy that promotes a shift in values
- An Improved Democracy
- An Economy that Boosts the Open Source Movement
- An Economy that serves as a transition to a better model
- What can I do?
- Do your own research
The overall economy becomes healthier by work time reductions. First of all, full employment will be achieved. Imagine, for example, that you have 10 people that depend on oranges to survive and you have 5 oranges only (in this example, oranges are an analogy of the current 8 hour paid employment). These 10 individuals will compete among each other to be able to grab one of the precious oranges. They will improve their speed, run faster, learn how to avoid obstacles better, anything they can improve in order to get one of the oranges. It doesn’t matter how efficient and productive each individual becomes, there will always be 5 people who would not be able to get an orange. Instead, we can do what any rational group of individuals would do in this situation: Split the oranges in half! That way, all 10 individuals will have an orange to survive. Why haven’t we done this to solve our unemployment issue? The employed are working long hours and the unemployed are watching them, without a job nor income. Why are we not splitting the number of hours for work from 8 to 4? This way, Full Employment will be achieved and everyone could have an opportunity to get a job and a decent income.
Second, Aggregate Demand is the Achilles’ heel of our economy and Full Employment will translate into an increase in Aggregate Demand. The 4 Hour Work-Day means a reduction in the hours of work, NOT A REDUCTION IN INCOME. This means that if your monthly income is $2000 a month working 40 hours a week, your income will remain the same, $2000 a month, but now working 20 hours a week only. How will work-time reductions be financed then, since the employers will now have to cover two salaries instead of one? Having the majority of the population employed, with decent income, will increase the number of buyers or consumers in the economy. This will increase Aggregate Demand, which will produce more sales and revenues for businesses. This increase in revenues will enable them to afford the higher labor costs they would face in a 4 Hour Work-Day world. If you think about it, this is the first step to eradicate poverty. Billions of dollars are spent every year to decrease poverty levels to no avail, and here we have in the 4 Hour Work-Day a proposal that could eradicate poverty completely and that has ZERO cost.
Another way of financing work-time reductions will be by taking increases in productivity to reduce the work-day instead of producing more output. For example, imagine you produce 1000 shoes in one day (8 hours). Then, productivity increases or a machine is invented that can help you produce the same amount of shoes but now in half a day (4 hours). You have 2 options: you can either work the same 8 hours and produce 2000 shoes or you can take the increase in productivity and produce the same amount of shoes you were producing before (1000) but work half the day only, 4 hours. This means that we would take the increases in productivity to reduce the work-day instead of producing more output.
As you can see from reading the last paragraph, the 4 Hour Work-Day will be a tremendous help for the environment because it will help utilize the technology in a much more responsible way instead of producing more and more output. In fact, Economists have identified what is called the “Rebound effect” of technology, where the environmental benefits of the new technological improvements, which are supposed to help the production processes become more efficient and utilize less resources, are being counteracted by our capitalistic, unlimited-growth, profit-seeking mentality to use more resources. Let’s go back to the shoes example. Let’s say in order to make the 1000 shoes we utilize 500 lb. of leather, but, with the new machine, now we can produce the 1000 shoes not only in half the time but utilizing half the amount of leather as well, 250 lbs. The fact that we are now using less resources sounds great, but the capitalistic economic model does not translate that gain into working less and using less resources. The Firm not only keeps it the same way it is (working 8 hours) but it will also invest in purchasing 2 more machines in order to get more revenue (hence, profit). That means that now, with 3 machines, we produce 6000 shoes in an 8-hour day (1000 shoes per half day per machine) and utilize a total of 1500 lbs of leather (250 lbs per machine, times 6). That’s right! We end up utilizing more resources. This is the “Rebound effect”: The technology that helped us become more efficient and utilize fewer resources is now utilizing more resources because we are choosing the wrong path, to produce more, instead of the other option, which is to use the increases in productivity to finance work time reductions in order to produce the same output and increase the leisure time for the population. This concept is particularly important when we talk about a No-Growth economy or a steady state economy. The conventional economic view is that we need to grow every year, and it is usually measured in terms of GDP growth. Many economists are starting to realize that it is not possible to continuously grow every year (especially since we have a finite planet) and they are advocating for a no growth economy. By looking at the example of the shoes, a very important element of the No-Growth economy is work time reductions. Without it, we would choose the other option, which is to produce more output.
A 4 Hour Work-Day will increase the amount of leisure time people have, which could be spent on things people love doing, like playing sports, reading a book, hiking, etc. It could also be spent connecting more with family and friends, or maybe connecting with people in the local community, strengthening what economists call “Social Capital.” This aspect will improve the psychological well-being of the population.
Additionally, as we mentioned earlier, reducing working hours to 4 hours a day and giving everyone the opportunity to work would be the first step to eradicate poverty from the face of the earth. It would also reduce crime because people (especially young adults) would be less likely to choose the criminal path if they are able to get a decent job. On that point we should also add the fact that both parents would be more likely to be present at home instead of working all day and they could become more active participants in raising the children.
Another detrimental aspect that could be diminished by implementing the 4 hour work-day is that it would reduce income inequality, because today, increases in productivity are going towards producing more output. Most of those profits from that increase in output are going to the 1% and all the employee gets is more hours of work.
Many strikes are happening right now all over the world. Workers are fighting with employers for better working conditions, for better benefits (or benefits at all), for higher wages, or to stop increasing work hours. The fact is that these issues are present because of one reason: the system we live in gives more bargaining power to the employer than the employee. And the reason is simple: “If one employer has the option to choose from 2 potential employees, these 2 individuals will compete with each other in order to get the job, usually by accepting lower wages, benefits or working conditions, sometimes lowering all three of them.” That’s why unemployment is beneficial for companies, because it leaves people competing for jobs and that competition keeps labor costs low for companies, since these unemployed people will be willing to take any job at any wage in order to get at least some income. But, what if we reverse the situation? What if two employers compete for one single potential employee? In this scenario the employers will now compete with each other, and the one that will have more bargaining power in this scenario will be the potential employee, and that will translate into better wages, better working conditions, and better benefits.
Reducing the work day to 4 hours (without reducing income) will make more jobs available and therefore, will switch the bargaining power to the worker, the people. If we unite all those strikes happening around the world, for one single request, to reduce the work-day to 4 hours so the bargaining power switches to the workers, we will achieve a great victory that benefits all workers. Even the employers will benefit because a healthy economy and increased aggregate demand means more buyers in the market for goods and services, which increases revenues and balances the increase labor costs. Therefore, profits will not be an issue for companies.
A reduction of the work-day to 4 hours a day (or 20 hours a week) will begin a switch in the value system we have in place. Patterns of consumption that are carbon intensive will be slowly replaced with activities that have lower carbon footprints. For example, people who work longer hours are more likely to choose to eat out instead of cooking healthier meals at home, or to buy produce (mostly shipped from other regions or countries) instead of growing their own food right in their own backyard, or to buy a car and spend money in gas instead of using public transportation (or even better, riding a bicycle). Reducing the working time will encourage people to move away from these patterns of consumption that have high carbon footprints, and gravitate toward activities that are more self-sufficient and less dependable on the system. The Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) published a study this past November of 2012 which concludes that countries with shorter work hours tend to have lower ecological footprints, carbon footprints, and carbon dioxide emissions (Schor et. al, 2012)
Current models that are being developed, models that focus on sustainability and a symbiotic relationship between human beings and the environment, will become more popular in a society that is only required to work 4 hours a day, since people will have more leisure time to spend on these activities. Permaculture, sharing programs, open-source technologies, time banks, etc., are activities and models that currently exist, but they could become mainstream in a society that is more self-sufficient and enjoys more leisure time.
Not only will we be able to see a shift from Consumerism to Sustainability by reducing the work-day to 4 hours a day. We will also have the right environment for values like Individualism and Competition to be replaced with values of Collectivism and Cooperation respectively. Imagine that you are a doctor who loves being a doctor and would not want to be restricted to 4 hours a day. You could work 4 hours per day to get the same income you’ve been getting, and during your leisure time, you could continue doing what you love doing and offer medical services to people who cannot afford it or lack health insurance. Or what about the engineer who loves being an engineer and can offer services during his/her leisure time to help nonprofits build houses for the poor people who somehow have lost their home due to economic reasons or an environmental disaster. Volunteering to help others in need could also increase if leisure time increases.
The 4 hour work-day is not the panacea. Even though it will solve many issues we have with our economy, the environment and society, all problems will not be eliminated. Whether it is monetary reform, War, corporate takeover of government, Wall Street’s abusive practices, etc., these issues that affect our society are without a doubt a battle between injustice and freedom, between the people and the oppressor. However, in a society that only requires people to work 4 hours a day, people will have more time to become more engaged with the problems that affect their community, country or the entire world, and become more active citizens. People will have more time to educate themselves about current issues and explore possible solutions, and will also have more time to educate others about these solutions, to engage the public and to massively assist to protest against the injustices of our current economic system. Think about how much stronger the voice of the people would be if we had more time for activism, or be more active participants in organizations that look for the benefit of society, like the Occupy Movement, GreenPeace, Human Rights Groups, and many more organizations. Imagine how many more people would attend a protest at Wall Street if we were not working all day. We could be capitalists for 4 hours a day and active citizens for the rest of the day. That is what a true democracy should look like. We have the system generating a self defense mechanism so to speak that makes it harder to become active participants in our community because we get back home so tired from working long hours that all we have energy for is to watch TV, which is brainwashing us more into consumerism. The 4 hour work-day then can REDEFINE THE CONCEPT OF DEMOCRACY and can unleash the strongest power on earth: The people.
An Economy that Boosts the Open Source Movement
Many people believe that the Open Source Movement is going to set up the foundation for the future sustainable Economy. Having the population required to work less and less and enjoy more leisure time will give the Open-Source Movement the boost it needs to become mainstream. It will begin to slowly liberate millions of creative minds trapped in monotonous and repetitive jobs and give them the time to focus on what they love doing, on figuring out things that can benefit all of us and not just a corporation that sells the products. The 4 hour work-day can make the open-source movement grow rapidly, and the best of all is that it will do it without compromising people’s income.
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One could argue that Capitalism worked 40-50 years ago, but currently, it is clearly out of control, and the 4 Hour Work-day could help transition into a new model that is more respectful for people and the environment. Buckminster Fuller once said that “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” Throughout history, systems have never been replaced in one month or one year. As B. Fuller said, they have become obsolete and replaced by another system that took over. The Merchants, for example, started to gain more power than the Feudal Lord and that (along with other factors) lead to the disappearance of Feudalism. But it didn’t happen in a couple years. It took some time for that to happen.
We all know the term “Planned Obsolescence”, a term that our “wonderful” system has brought to us that deliberately makes things to break down or become obsolete easier and faster so we have the need to purchase a new item, creating unnecessary waste. Well, how about we give this system a taste of its own medicine. Let’s deliberately plan for this system to become obsolete: a “Planned Obsolescence for our current economic model.” If we consider that having a society that is only required to work 4 hours a day would mean that:
- The path towards a No-growth economy will be developed, by utilizing the increases in productivity to reduce the work-day instead of producing more;
- It will increase the amount of leisure time people have, which can be spent doing what they love doing;
- It will enable people to become more active citizens (thus redefining democracy);
- It will begin to switch our value system from competition to cooperation and from individualism to collectivism; and
- Full Employment will be achieved and future productivity reevaluations will keep reducing the work-day,
…then we would set the path for a new system to rise and slowly replace the current negative system we have. Which new system would that be? That would be up to us. We are already seeing a shift to better value systems and models like time banks, permaculture, growing your own food, open-source systems, models that focus more on the symbiotic relationship between human beings, resources and the planet. The 4 hour work-day would provide the right environment for those models to spread and expand even faster, creating a better system for society. In essence, we would set the path to build an Economy that works for us and the environment and not that forces us and the environment to work for the economy. The 4 hour work-day will trigger the beginning of a new era in human history.
Help us promote this campaign. The internet is the best tool we have to spread this message all over the world. Like us on Facebook and share it with friends and family. The more we share it the quicker this information spreads. As a matter of fact, do it now before you forget. It will only take 5 seconds.
Organize a local chapter in your area, to speak with your local Unions prepare for a synchronized Global Strike.
You can also sign the petition on Change.org to Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, the largest union in the world with 170 million members, to call for a peaceful and democratic Global Strike to implement the 4 Hour Work-day.
If you have any new and creative idea on how to help the campaign, let us know.
Whether you want to help promote this idea or want to learn more about it, you can start doing your own research. We have a video titled “The 4 Hours Explained in 1″ which will give you a good introduction about this campaign. We also have a section where you can do your own research and find many articles, videos and journals that support the 4 Hour work-day.
It is time to organize and really make an impact in this world. Let’s not wait for politicians to do it because they are not able to do it. How long have we been waiting for them to fix the environmental problem? How many times do we need to see the Climate Summits end where they started, with NO SOLUTION? How many times do we need to see the United Nations talk about reducing poverty and seeing most of the money budgeted for it spent on just paperwork with no change whatsoever in reducing poverty levels? The 4 Hour Work-day is a single solution that would not only eliminate poverty, but it will have zero cost. It will also set up an economy that will take care of the environment and people at the same time. We need to organize and take care of this planet since people in power are not doing it. We owe it to ourselves and to the future generations to come. So please, go now and spread this message through social media channels that a campaign has started. This movement will grow as fast as WE can make it grow. Like Margaret Mead said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has”.
The 4 Hour Work-day Campaign