The future isn't is what it used to be. As late as 1970, futurists were predicting that a 3-day workweek would be the norm by the 1990s. Articles of the day imagined that the biggest problem we would have in the 1990s would be figuring out what to do with all that free time.
That future is now. Instead of one breadwinner working 24 hours per week, most families now have two breadwinners each working 40 hours per week. And despite extra earners, longer work hours, and higher productivity, real family incomes in Canada have been falling since 1980.
Advances in technology mean that Canadian workers can produce more wealth in less time. Why, instead, do we find ourselves working more, and earning less?
Historically, shorter work times have been our primary and most effective tool for keeping unemployment low. Over the period between 1800 and 1950, the standard workweek was reduced by an average of three hours every decade. Sharing the work insured that labour-saving technology created leisure, not unemployment. In the simple maxim of labour pioneer Samuel Gompers: "So long as there is one who seeks work and cannot find it, the hours of work are too long." It's important we understand why we abandoned that winning and proven strategy.
This article is in the public domain. Feel free to photocopy it, and to reprint it in community newspapers, newsletters, trade journals, E-mail, etc.
This is part one of a four part posting. The entire article and chart is
Bruce O'Hara is the coordinator of the Shorter Work Time Network of Canada and author of _Put Work In Its Place_ and _Working Harder Isn't Working_(both published by New Star Books, Vancouver, B.C.).
The Shorter Work Time Network can be reached by phone at (604)334-0998 or write Box 3483, Courtenay, BC, V9N 6Z8.