Should we be working less?

The Economist has a terrific survey on the future of work, and I hope I’m not too late in recommending it. The issue isn’t on newsstands anymore. But the discussion continues in The Economist’s blogs, which are taking up issues such as whether we really need all these jobs anymore, anyway.

The issues are:

– While many are unemployed, many jobs can’t be filled. We’re not re-training employees fast enough.

– A lot of jobs aren’t coming back. Technology has made them obsolete. 

– The freelance economy, meanwhile, is booming. Now if only they could all get health insurance.

It’s ironic that a magazine called “The Economist” is discussing all of these things because economists’ tools are so badly outdated. They can’t deal with such change.

Call in the philosophers. I’m a very bad one, so perhaps someone can improve on this discussion.

A couple of thoughts:

– Those who have full-time jobs now are often working themselves to the bone. Far more than 40 hours a week. Little vacation. Why are we not sharing these work hours among more people?

– Should we offer more part-time work so that families can more easily drop from two working parents to 1.5?

– How many societal benefits would we have from people working less? I’ll start: More volunteer work. More thoughtful blogs. More parenting. More part-time musicians and artists. 

So in the typical family, rather than having two parents combining to work 90, 100, 120 hours a week, wouldn’t that family and society as a whole be better off if those parents worked no more than 60? And what must we do to make this 21st century family model come true?


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