Advantages of shorter hours

15th of October 2010

Working shorter hours could reduce the burden our lifestyles impose on the environment while offering solutions to the mass unemployment caused by the economic crisis. That's according to research carried out by the University of Gothenburg.

Shortening working time by one per cent reduces the environmental impact by 0.8 per cent, according to researcher Jörgen Larsson. "This indicates that reduced work time would limit energy use," he said.

Larsson argued that shorter working time helps to combat climate change in two ways. It reduces the energy use of individuals while changing their consumption patterns by limiting their income. Hence a person with less disposable income would opt out of air travel or expensive energy-guzzling home electronics. Moreover fewer time constraints could encourage cycling or public transport.

Pick up job market

Cutting working hours rather than raising salaries could also help the job market to pick up, said Juliet Schor, professor of sociology at Boston College in the US when she addressed a Brussels debate last month. In recent decades, increased productivity has allowed Europeans to work fewer hours while continuing to enjoy rising salaries. Households in the US, on the other hand, have been increasing their working hours.

Schor drew a parallel with Europe's considerably smaller ecological footprint. "The divergence in the US and European path is, I believe, a key difference between the two regions. It is an important part of why European materials use and GHG emissions have been better than the US in terms of progress," she said.

Shorter hours are also seen as key to getting to grips with rocketing unemployment figures triggered by the economic crisis. Schor argued that the standard approach of creating jobs by increasing GDP growth rate is not working and no stimulus is forthcoming amid political austerity measures.


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