Government / Policy / Political Views

Introducing the Four Day Work Week

As some of you know, I plan to run for President via Americans Elect if nominated.  I will be posting some of the planks of my campaign platform
Here is one:  Introducing the Four Day Work Week
As some of you know, I plan to run for President via Americans Elect if nominated.  I will be posting some of the planks of my campaign platform from time to time.  Here is one – Introduce the Four Day Work Week.
I hate to be the one to tell you, but the jobs that were lost in the debacle that  resulted in part from  the real estate bubble,  are not coming back.  The combination of globalization, increased productivity resulting from technological advances and  resource depletion  are  permanent.  Rather than dealing with that reality, we masked it by the using of easy credit.  So rather than having growth we simulated growth.  That allowed Americans to buy homes they could not afford with debt that they could not pay back. Building these homes created many jobs but those jobs could not be sustained.  In the mean time, increasing real estate values allowed the rest of us to feel more wealthy  and more comfortable spending our savings or, even worse, borrowing from the equity of our homes.  I think you probably already know all this.  But our government leaders are telling us (both parties) that we just have to return to growth and everything thing will be ok.  The two parties do not disagree with the end objective – growth.  They just disagree on how to get there. And they are both wrong.
So if we are going to have 10%  unemployment (it’s really more like 20% but we don’t count the people that had given up looking for work), more or less permanently (although will likely get worse), then what does this mean for our country?  If so many people are unemployed permanently, things are going to get ugly. Unemployment insurance can not maintain standards of living.  And unemployment insurance will not be extended for ever.  So many families will find themselves with greatly reduced incomes or even no income.  Family not directly effected will fear that they will be next to lose their jobs.  This means that in addition to living with great anxiety, they will also be willing to work longer hours for less pay and less benefits which, while increasing profitability for their employers, will have the effect of actually reducing job growth.  Not all parts of society will be effected in the same way.  For instance young people and in particular young people of  minorities will be even more effected.  You only have to look to the recent riots in the UK to see how well this works out.
So is there an alternative?  Yes, we can go back to the promise of a four day work week, something I was told to expect when I was growing up in the 50s and 60s.   If we reduced the work week to 32 hours,  after a period of adjustment, everyone  could be employed.  Yes, we would all be earning 20% less but we would have a full extra day in our lives.  This in effect would add increase our days off by 50%.  We would stop having to worry about losing our jobs.  We would once again have some bargaining power with employers.  We would have not to be fearful of gangs of young men who have never found work.

So rather than think about a reduction of your salary by 20%, think about all the great things you will be able to do with the extra day.

Here is a pretty good video talking about this concept.

New Dream Mini-Views: Visualizing a Plenitude Economy from Center for a New American Dream on Vimeo.



5 thoughts on “Introducing the Four Day Work Week

  1. I think you are totally spot on. Can you imagine one of the two-party candidates actually broaching this as an option? Or overthrowing King GDP in favor of GHI (gross happiness index) or GPI (genuine progress indicators)? Or questioning growth?

    In the long term, we are also going to have to fundamentally re-define what it means to work. Having a “job” with a “title” are quite recent social innovations. People will have plenty of work in the future, but it may not be as specialized as it is now.



  2. This would make TOO MUCH SENSE.

    I tried to persuade the management at my last company to look at a 4 day work week and they rolled their eyes. Let’s look at this logically…

    Working 4 days and 10 hours of day would still produce 40 hours of work. By not having to work on Fridays, that would mean that the companies would not have to pay for electricity, heat, air conditioning and other services for the workers. There might also be an insurance benefit, since the places would be closed for an extra day each week. This is all a CASH SAVINGS for the business.

    Now let’s look at how the workers benefit. That is one less day a week that they need to commute. With gasline now at $3.65 a gallon…the average worker is probably paying about $15 a DAY just in gasoline during their commute. Some are paying more! Add in the other transportation savings from the wear and tear on their autos, and the amount probably gets closer to $20 a day. $20 a day times 4 weeks a month? That’s $80 that they save. $80 that they can invest or spend to stimulate the ecnomy.

    Oh, and I’ve already said this to others concerning the US Postal Service. Do we really NEED Saturday mail delivery? Imagine the savings it would bring if the USPS only delivered mail 5 days a week!


  3. The problem with this idea is that the numbers don’t add up. Each worker would probably have to take a 1/3 cut in order for the business to be able to afford the benefits and overhead of the 5th person–if everyone keeps the benefits of a fulltime job.

    We’re already seeing this issue in the US in two areas. In retail, chains are dropping fulltime employees. Target cut over 100,000 fulltime positions on one day and replaced them with 31 hour a week part-timers, who received almost no benefits. In office jobs, we see worker productivity going up because laid off employees simply aren’t replaced, resulting in overtime-exempt employees who are asked to work longer workweeks or risk being the next to get laid off.

    Even when you don’t change the number of people who are in the office at the same time, the costs to the business go up with each person added to the payroll From ID badges to insurance claims, employing 5 people costs more than 4 for the same number of hours worked.

    I’m all for creative solutions, and if people are willing to talk about a 1/3 salary cut in order to employ a fifth person, that’s something to be considered. But there are no easy, painfree solutions to the problems we are facing now, no matter how talented the artists drawing the pictures. Or how brilliant the people (and I count Avram as one of the great minds of our time) doing the blog.

    So, Avram, it’s a real problem. Worthy of a real solution. Toss the benefits and the overhead into the equation and give the blender another spin. How do we change the unemployment rate for 16 to 25 year olds in America? Did you know that only 1 in 4 teens had a job this summer? That’s down from over 2/3 a few years ago. What kind of employees will they be when they do turn 25 if they’ve never had any work experience? They can’t all drive food trucks…

    Hard problems need hard numbers if they’re going to turn into real solutions.


  4. Yes, everyone has to give up a bit to make this work. I saw this in Yugoslavia where all the people in the town I was staying only worked half a day, and there was 100% employment. Everyone had enough, and of course there was a high level of eduction offered to all, and universal health care. There were artists, doctors, engineers, housekeepers, bricklayers, artisans, etc. They had half the day to live, relate, read, walk, etc. But their standard of living would be considered pitiful by modern day Californians. Our image of how we have to live is the problem, our expectations, and inability to see that the richness of life does not reside in being at that material level, but in our imaginations, to see the value in the moments we are alive. I find Duif’s answer does not go far enough outside those expectations to see the potential of the idea of a 4 day work week, or a half day of work.


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