Throughout history as technology advanced people needed to work less to support themselves and their family. In history, many people had to work sun-up to sundown just to survive, but as technology brought advances in productivity, people begin to work less from 72 hours, six days a week for 60 hours. Next, the 48-hour workweek where people worked only 6 days a week and Sunday was reserved for God and Family. Finely 40 hours five-day workweek became the norm.
Shorter workweeks became the fruit of productivity increases that coupled with technology advances, people could work less. In addition, to the increases in productivity, people began to live longer and were in better health. Jobs also changed with most requiring less physical effort as machines began to do the heavy work.
Today business demands more knowledge and more experience with less muscle power. Because of the increase in productivity, many companies need less people to produce the same amount of products and even service businesses are seeing this improvement. People are needed less and less so they are laid off. Many companies have had early out programs where people are given incentives to retire early in some cases as early 50 or 60. Unfortunately, for the companies this is a big loss in knowledge and experience. This also produces a side effect where many of these early retirees simply get another job thus increasing the labor supply instead of reducing it.
The solution is to cut the workday back to 32 hours and change the retirement to 70 years of age or more. What a shock, a 20% decrease in work hours but look at the result, some of the reduction will be for productive increases but some would require more people hired to fill the hours needed and a small amount for later retirement. People would have 20% more free time to pursue their passions. Companies retain their most valuable employees longer and can even modify benefit plans to fit the new workweek.
Imagine 50 days a year people do not have to travel to work anymore and having 3 days a week free would increase the quality of life and encourage more trips, maybe education or just being with the family. The big elephant in the room is how to pay for it. Obviously, some kind of split of cost and this would not be a tomorrow thing it is something that would have to be integrated into time.
Companies that will be first to take this on are those in which productivity has led to excess personnel and are presently over staffed. Splitting the cost would work if a fair split can be negotiated. Maybe fewer days of work for more years until retirement could be one negotiation. Some will say they still want the same retirement age, sure, you do, but 50 extra days of play, a week maybe is a good trade off.
For those that do not like this idea, make it optional; you are in or you are out. All new hires would be in. Think about reduced cost for retirements, five year less payout. It all would happen gradually. Those that want to make extra money can take on another job to make up any financial losses that they might have. Actually, they might find something they like better. If you want a lot more money you, then work more. You can have two jobs.
We are in a changing society, one that is moving from an industrial one to a service one. Manufacturing has moved from our county but even as it moves, machines are doing more and more of the production. Therefore, we must change to be a society of thinkers and organizers as opposed to workers, because machines are quickly replacing workers. This is already happening in the number of part-timers so let us make it official.
Mike Young is a retired water and power executive who resides in Mesquite. Graduated from the University of La Verne he has taught communications skills and technical subjects throughout the Western Hemisphere. In addition to writing and editing technical manuals, he has a book titled “Speaking for Effect”. He has received some of the highest awards and recognition from both professional and public organizations.