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A SHORTER WORKWEEK IN THE 1980s

by William McGaughey

 

published in 1981 by Thistlerose Publications

ISBN 0-9605630-0-8

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

Foreword by Rep. John Conyers (937 words)

Chapter 1 SHORTER HOURS AND THE COMMITMENT TO FULL EMPLOYMENT

Experience of the Depression and World War II ; nine strategies to fight employment: set goals and improve measuring techniques; unemployment insurance; monetary and fiscal stimulus; restrain labor-force participation; job training for the ‘structurally unemployed’; public-sector jobs; target employment to the disadvantaged; reduce hours of work; the Conyers bill. (See text of this chapter. 12,350 words)

Chapter 2 LABOR DISPLACEMENT

Charges of ‘something for nothing’; splitting the productivity dividend; the productivity equation and several possible outcomes; postwar trend in hours, employment, and output; effect of labor-force shifts upon the average workweek; the long-hours phenomenon; impact of FLSA amendments upon retailing; boom in part-time jobs of questionable quality; alternative working hours; indications that hours may be growing longer, not shorter; leisure in other forms; challenging the concept of labor displacement; why unemployment has not soared with increasing productivity; definitional changes; persons lured out of the work force by welfare and retirement; the undeniable gains in employment; dubious quality of those new jobs; income comparisons by industry and occupation; the fast-growing menial jobs; nonproductive employment; several measures of average living standards; analysis of GNP; whether living standards have risen at all; jobs for money changers and tax avoiders; how GNP can rise statistically without a rise in real living standards; excessive competition in marketing and the law; mandating the spread of bureaucracy; jobs to repair breakdowns in health or the social fabric; substitutes for housewives’ work; an alternative to all this prosperity. (See text of this chapter.18,762 words)

Chapter 3 WORK-SHARING: A MACRO-ECONOMIC POSSIBILITY

Job creation through shorter hours; after forty years, still ‘premature’; achieving a shorter workweek without a decline in economic output; BLS classifications of the U.S. labor force; level of hours possible if unemployment were eliminated; some other labor-force reserves; analysis of persons ‘not in the labor force’; particular groups most likely to seek employment with shorter hours; estimate of additional entrants the the labor force based upon BLS study of nonparticipants’ subsequent work experience; ‘employment’ as a labor-force reserve; involuntary part-time workers and workers in nonproductive jobs; estimates of the number of superfluous government and private-industry nonproduction workers; work-sharing calculation, assuming that labor-force reserves are fully utilized; the likely impact upon productivity; calculation giving effect to increased productivity; summary of the shifts in manpower and changes in man-hours worked if the average full-time workweek were cut to the calculated level; whether this kind of exercise is ‘realistic’. (See text of this chapter. 8,596 words)

Chapter 4 WHICH FALLACY IS FALLACIOUS?

Several experts who believe that the shorter-workweek concept is fallacious; the ‘lump of labor’ fallacy and experience of the Great Depression; Paul Douglas’ example of labor displacement; the saturation of industrial markets and employment; whether the overall number of jobs will decline through ‘labor-saving‘ technology; a hard-nosed question at the hearings on the Conyers bill; why it is so difficult to find examples of jobs created by shorter hours; several examples to placate the critics; the interest in this approach in Europe and Japan compared with total neglect in the United States; three arguments by economists why the shorter workweek won’t work; the alleged decline in productivity as many ‘unqualified’ persons become employed; the moonlighting bugaboo; higher productivity and increased employment as the likely effects of shorter hours; a ‘full employment’ economy vs. a ‘house divided’ between working and nonworking citizens; taking a journalistic stroll through the contemporary economy; youth unemployment; overqualified workers and underachievers; the ‘split-level’ recession; futile attempts at welfare reform. (See text of this chapter. 12,774 words)

Chapter 5 OBJECTION #1: THE SHORTER WORKWEEK MUST WAIT UNTIL PRODUCTIVITY IMPROVES.

The argument that cuts in hours are limited by increases in productivity; the ‘chicken or the egg’ situation; confusing productivity with production; analysis of ‘output per man-hour’; three ways to increase productivity: push output; squeeze employment; squeeze average hours; whether shorter hours stimulate increased productivity of labor; the conclusion of an ILO study; seven examples of shorter hours bringing higher productivity; running the economy like a pro football team; refined player selection; socialism as an ‘efficient’ system of production; ‘realistic’ businessmen who run their businesses into the ground; finding the proper scope to measure productivity; an ‘appropriate technology’ for U.S. jobs. (See text of this chapter. 5,921 words)

Chapter 6 OBJECTION #2: WORKERS HAVE CHOSEN TO INCREASE THEIR INCOMES RATHER THAN TO HAVE MORE TIME OFF FROM WORK.

The ‘trade-off’ theory of income and hours; three reasons why this theory does not describe the facts; workers’ inability to choose or control the number of hours they work; surveys which show widespread dissatisfaction with working hours; evidence that American workers want shorter hours; a correlation between shorter hours and higher pay; Paul Douglas’ study of hours and real income; long hours in backward economies; leisure as a component of living standards; an economy paced by bureaucracy and providing instant conveniences; evidence that U.S. incomes are being distributed progressively less equally; a theory to fit the facts. (See text of this chapter. 7,608 words)

Chapter 7 OBJECTION #3: TO REDUCE THE WORKWEEK WOULD AGGRAVATE INFLATION.

A distinguished-looking witness at the hearings; short-term and long-term impact of shorter hours upon the level of prices; seeking the ‘cause’ of inflation; Wall Street’s peculiar view of minimum wage; the effect of shorter hours upon the price of steel in the 1920s; better absorption of fixed overhead; the importance of a progressive business climate; the ‘cost’ of unemployment; inflationary ‘jobs’ program; how the problem of inflation has been substituted for the unemployment problem; inflation as a redistributive force; McKinley and Bryan, fiscal integrity vs. ‘pump priming’; the deteriorating base of production; need to fortify the institution of productive work; how shorter hours would help to meet the crisis of occupations; inflation through ‘cornering the market’; professional price-fixing; the virulent inflation of medical costs; 36-hour workdays in the hospitals; long hours and the psychology of inflation; the ‘macho of time’ at the White House; measuring output by measuring input; restoring sanity to the work place, and, in the process, achieving stable prices. (See text of this chapter. 7,933 words)


Chapter 8 STATISTICAL COMPARISONS: AVERAGE WORKWEEK, PRODUCTIVITY, REAL EARNINGS, AND COST OF LIVING

A need to look at statistics, however shaky; a causal relationship between changes in hours and changes in productivity, real wages, and prices; looking at the trends over a period of years; a time lag between cause and effect; comparisons of data, 1890 to 1926; comparisons of data, 1919 to 1950; comparisons of data, 1947 to 1979; trends over the past century; several conclusions: little long-term correlation between shorter hours and higher prices; lagged stimulation of productivity and real earnings; several problems with this analysis; comparison between industries of changes in the workweek and changes in real wages; comparisons between industries of changes in workweek and producer prices; international comparisons which show that the U.S. economy is being outperformed by leisure-rich nations. (See text of this chapter. 6,692 words)

Chapter 9 WORKING HOURS AND THE CONSERVATION OF ENERGY

The bad image of leisure from an energy-conservation standpoint; the new concept of ‘energy productivity’; alternative hours and shorter hours; the MATHTECH calculations of potential energy savings from alternative work schedules; Professor Denton’s study of industrial energy savings through staggered hours; two examples in California; the 4-day workweeks to save heating oil in the winter of 1976-77; the ‘get yours first’ response to gasoline shortages in 1979; a lack of governmental leadership; staggering work hours in metropolitan areas to reduce traffic congestion; advantages of the 4-day workweek; ways to improve ‘passenger-miles per gallon’ in work-related transportation; why people choose to drive to work alone; how staggered work hours might achieve better utilization of mass-transit facilities; overtime as an impediment to shared rides and use of public transportation; energy conservation vs. economic growth to create jobs; financial domination of energy industry; the lesson of ‘Limits to Growth’; popular appreciation of the need to develop more ‘austere’ lifestyle; whether workers can be trusted to use free time wisely; impact of a shorter workweek upon the recreational use of energy; the opposing recreational lifestyles; concept of a ’low-energy vacation’; steps to make this idea s reality; the ‘high energy’ lifestyle developed to compensate for shortages of time; results of a survey which show how workers with 4-day workweeks use their time. (See text of this chapter. 10,032 words)

Chapter 10 THE HISTORY AND CURRENT PROPOSALS

Conflicting interpretations of the Sabbath; President Harding’s ’jaw boning’ of the steel industry about long hours; statement of Jesus concerning work; Moses against the Egyptian slave drivers; religious and commercial holidays; the trend in working hours over several centuries; horrendous developments during the Industrial Revolution; some early strikes for a shorter workday in the United States; the 10-hour day and 8-hour day movements during the 19th century; two memorable May Days; labor’s successful organizing in the 1890s; Lord Ashley and Henry Ford, two humanitarians with clout; how the workweek was shortened during the Great Depression; major pieces of labor legislation from the 1930s; some wrong lessons learned by economists; whether to seek shorter hours through collective bargaining or legislation; at which level of government to seek legislation; how the shorter-workweek effort might be coordinated with U.S. trade policy; the need for international cooperation to fight unemployment; work-time recommendations of the International Labor Organization; several techniques used to reduce workweeks around the world; main provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938; the various amendments to this law; what the Conyers bill proposes; considerations in choosing between a 5-day, 35-hour workweek and a 4-day, 32-hour workweek; the ‘time-and-a-half’ premium as a disincentive for scheduling overtime; differing strategies to limit overtime work; some arguments concerning mandatory overtime; regular overtime as a substitute for higher straight-time wages; proposed surtax on overtime earnings; the need for broader coverage under the Fair Labor Standards Act; abusive exemptions; how a shorter workweek might be introduced; staggering that extra day off; the question of wage adjustments; proposals for short-time compensation; a concluding word about leisure. (See text of this chapter. 19,321 words)

Shorter-Workweek Networking
Footnote References
Summary of Statistical Tables
Index
Perspectives on Shorter Hours

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This book has 109,989 words of text in all chapters not including tables, footnotes, etc.

 

 

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