What is the Shorter Work Time Network?
The Shorter Work Time Network is a grassroots movement of individuals and organizations committed to bringing about a national dialogue on work times.
The future was supposed to be an Age of Leisure and prosperity. Instead, Canadians find themselves working longer and harder for less -- if they're working at all.
We'd like Canadians to understand why working harder isn't working, and how we can reclaim the future as an era of leisure and prosperity.
Founded in 1994, the Shorter Work Time Network of Canada now has chapters in most major Canadian cities. Much of the growth of the network is in informal linkages with organizations representing labour, business, environmental activism, women, anti-poverty, public health, pro-family, and student communities. The Network is linked with similar groups in the United States and around the world.
Activities of the Network include:
- Organizing public workshops.
- Speakers' bureau
- Library and resources lists
- Study groups
- Mall displays
- Case study research
- Political advocacy
- and more!
What Can You Do?
When almost everyone is stressed out -- either by unemployment or by overwork -- it's necessary to create a "Psst, pass it on" movement where a great many people do a little bit each.
Take a minute to ask yourself: What small step could I take to bring the work time issue to the attention of my friends, my work-mates, my community?
Be part of the chain reaction that will reclaim the future. Sharing the work can create full employment-and it won't cost the Earth. Pass it on.
- Does your workplace or professional association have a newsletter or magazine? We have short, public domain articles available.
- Do you belong to a club, church or profession association? Network volunteers will make presentations to groups large and small.
- Do you have a friend or relative who's a candidate for burnout? How about buying them a book on working less and enjoying life more.
- Talk about it at work and with friends. Organize a study group. The Network has a library and a Suggested Resources list to get you started.
- Set an example. Work less.
- Join the Network. Subscribe to the Network newsletter Share Times to remind yourself to keep doing your bit.
Save the Economy...
Historically, shorter work times have been our primary and most effective tool for keeping unemployment low. Over the period between 1800 and 1950, the standard workweek was reduced by an average of three hours every decade.
It was understood that labour-saving technology would lead to unemployment and overproduction (and hence a stagnant and depressed economy) if it wasn't offset by a reduction in work times.
Starting in the 1950s, economists abandoned this proven approach, embracing instead the hypothesis that growth alone could create full employment.
How has that theory worked out? The Network has a graph we call The Unemployment Staircase. It charts the average unemployment rate for each economic cycle over the past 50 years. Deficit spending held unemployment down in the past 3 recessions. In the next one, interest charges will push it way up instead. It's time we got off the staircase!
Save our Sanity...
The 40-hour workweek was designed for men with stay-at-home wives. When one partner works 40 hours a week outside the home, and the other works a comparable amount of time inside the home, it's a manageable workload.
Unfortunately, most of today's full-time workers have a spouse who is also employed full-time, or no spouse at all. At the end of the workday, we come home to the second shift: housework, childcare, grocery shopping and laundry.
It doesn't matter how well we manage that whopping great increase in the family work load: it's always too much, and we pay for it in lives of quiet desperation.
and Save the Earth...
With work hours unchanged, new labour-saving technology is requiring 3%economic growth per year just to keep unemployment from rising. To reduce unemployment significantly requires an annual growth rate of at least 5%. That means 5% more pollution, waste, resource and energy use every year: an environmental time bomb. In contrast, shorter work times offer us the opportunity to reduce unemployment and reduce stress on the environment.
...by Sharing the Work.
We are becoming a nation of the unemployed and the overworked. Sharing the work can restore the balance. Everyone can have work, with the income and sense of purpose it brings. Everyone can have time to play, time for family, time for friendship, time to be a good neighbour and a good citizen.
The costs for welfare, health care, crime, and juvenile delinquency will all go down. A fresher and happier workforce will be more productive. Restoring balance will come at a price, but not a large one; savings will offset most of the costs.
What could be done? We could look at making change in at least three main areas:
- Disincentives to Overtime: Replacing paid and unpaid overtime with permanent relief staff could create somewhere between 150,000 and 250,000 jobs across Canada.
- Family-Friendly Work Schedules: We could create between 250,000 and 500,000 jobs, just by allowing those who want to work less to do so, via job sharing, phased retirement, and permanent part-time, etc.
- A Shorter Workweek Standard: Moving quickly to a 1600-hour work year standard would create over a million new jobs. We could choose between a 4-day workweek, a 6-hour workday, or 12 weeks vacation per year. It's hardly radical: Canadians would still be working more hours per year than the French, Germans, Dutch and Swedes are working now!
TimeWork Web is the official web page of the Shorter Worktime Network of Canada
Online: June 29, 1995. Latest Revision: July 23,1997
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