Four-day Work Weeks

Over the past few days, many people across my social media have been sharing an article about how Iceland successfully trialed a four-day work week without reductions in pay, with the study resulting in some impressive findings including no loss of productivity by workers as well as boosting worker happiness. The study has been described as a “landmark pilot” which could set a precedent for future workplaces by showing the benefits of shifting to a shorter work week.

Although I am in full support of a shorter work week in general — as a means to reduce the labour time required of workers, I would argue that this idea still doesn’t address the larger societal issues brought about by neoliberal capitalism, an economic system hell-bent on the pursuit of endless growth.

When considered from a productivity perspective, this study makes it sound like a positive that workers were able to do the same amount of work — or more, within fewer workdays. Yet, I see this finding to be a huge red flag, because it means that employers likely can — and will, expect the same level of productivity from workers in a 32-hour work week, which would have previously been spread over 40. These findings might entice employers because it could mean paying less input (i.e., cheaper overhead) for relatively the same output — a win for the owners of capital, at the expense of the workers who are forced to work harder or more efficiently.

A four-day work week sounds great upon first glance, but it still wouldn’t change the fact that working class people and our environment will continue to be exploited for someone else’s profit, regardless of how many hours we work each week. In my opinion, shifting away from capitalism and towards a more sustainable and equitable way of co-existing on our planet would be a much better solution for worker happiness, in addition to ensuring a healthy, kinder, livable future for subsequent generations.

We — each and every one of us, only have a finite time on Earth to enjoy our existence and to pursue the things that we find meaningful. To truly embrace our time, we need to shift away from valuing labour time and profit growth towards socially available free time — the time necessary to pursue commitments that make our lives meaningful.

Under capitalism, we are never truly free since our existence serves only for the generation of profits. We can never own the question of: what should we do with our time? — since that question has already been decided for us. We exist purely for the sake of generating profit, and because we spend the majority of our lives working, we have very little free time to pursue the commitments that we find meaningful as ends in themselves. Under capitalism, we only produce what is profitable for the owners of capital, whereas under democratic socialism we are enabled to produce whatever will satisfy the needs of our society in a responsible, sustainable manner, enabling ourselves to flourish as social-individuals, and truly reclaim agency over our finite lives.

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Walk slowly, and drink lots of water.

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Phillip Meintzer

Phillip Meintzer

Walk slowly, and drink lots of water.

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