Could a 15 hour work week save the world & improve gender equality?

Could a 15 hour work week save the world & improve gender equality?

In 1930, influential economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that by 2030 we’d all be working just 15 hours a week, thanks to industrial and technological advances.

Yet, with the current average working week for female workers totalling 34 hours, a figure which rises to 39 hours for men, Keynes' 2030 deadline for a paradisiacal society of part-time work doesn’t look likely.

However, a modern-day Keynes, Dutch historian Rutger Bregman, believes if we all slashed our working week to 15 hours, we’d be better placed to tackle contemporary problems – The Independent reports.

Bregman’s new book, Utopia For Realists And How We Can Get There, argues that everyone should spend less time on paid work.

With 89% of men and 59% of women working full-time, Bregman believes that stress, accidents, climate change, unemployment and angst could be tackled by cutting these percentages.

One of his suggestions is for an increase in job shares in order to free up time to think about how best to ward off the existential crises which threaten our planet. This, Bregman writes, would simultaneously tackle gender bias when hiring.

The Guardian's Political Editors and Vogue's Feature Editors are both currently job shares – with all four positions taken by women.

The Green Party also has a senior role job share between Jonathan Bartley and MP Caroline Lucas.

Senior roles at Lloyds Banking Group, the charity Age UK, the Home Office, the Ministry of Defence, the Department for Work and Pensions are all also job shares.

One school of thought believes that if men started cutting their full-time hours, only then can workplace gender equality be reached.

Countries which do enjoy shorter working weeks, such as Norway and Sweden, score much better in gender equality rankings.

A recent study by The Women’s Business Council suggests that the UK’s future growth and prosperity depends on maximising women’s contribution to the economy, estimating that workplace gender parity could be worth up to £23 billion to the annual economy.

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Comments (4)

  • Sir
    Mon, 6 Mar 2017 9:58pm GMT
    These are sickening middle class worries - most people would be grateful to earn enough just to make ends meet - and reducing their hours would just make things even worse.
    Why don't these contributors just work for Deliveroo on a zero hours contract ? - then they can control the hours they want to work.
    Or doesn't this sound quite so appealing now ?
  • VeniVidiVici
    Mon, 6 Mar 2017 4:57pm GMT
    Also an Australian survey showed that being taller greatly improved earning power. It showed that being 6ft tall boosted earnings potential by $1000 compared to someone 2 inches shorter. I therefore intend to offset my reduced pay of 15 hours per week by growing taller.

    Unfortunately my proposed adjusted height of 16ft 4 inches also presents some foreseeable issues. I therefore need to also offset my hrs:height:earnings ratio and would greatly appreciate any comment/ suggestions.

    ps more height by trying high heels are not an option as they would look ridiculous on a 16ft 4in man. Oh and it's not in my contract either.
  • Peeps - East Midland
    Peeps - East Midland
    Mon, 6 Mar 2017 4:43pm GMT
    I agree with Jane. The majority of posts are advertised as full-time and it takes courage to ask for anything less, or even for a compressed week. At the same time I don't believe there are many genuinely part-time posts, only part-time hours. We seem to suffer from a culture of "you want part-time work, make the work fit into part-time hours". I work part-time and would argue I'm more productive than my full-time counterparts. When I'm at work I work, 100% of the time. I save my personal phone calls, internet surfing and appointments for my non-working days. I think in reality everyone WANTS part-time work. Very few are willing to accept the salary sacrifice to achieve it. I think it would take a huge shift in values on a national scale to change that.
  • Jane South East
    Jane South East
    Mon, 6 Mar 2017 1:41pm GMT
    There is a real lack of mid to senior roles for professional women who want to work and juggle family. Despite the improvements in flexible working options these work best when you are working somewhere already - wanting to move to a new role and take up a flexible option, you are always faced with competition of the person who can work longer hours than you can and it takes a lot of courage to say anything at interview and risk being taken out of the process. Making job shares more acceptable and commonplace would be a big step forward.

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