The 35 hour week?

There is an article by Gudrun Schyman of the party Feministic Initiative and of Carl Schlyter from the Greens that discuss the introduction of a 30 hour workweek without discussing the results of the French introduction of the 35 hour workweek in 2000 by Jospin's government. Martine Aubry, the present leader of the Parti Socialist, pushed the issue in Jospin's government as minister of labour.

It is interesting that France, that experimented with a 10 day week, decadi, 9 working days and one day of rest, during the French Revolution during 12 years was first with lowering the 40 working hours week. Indeed Napoleon changed back to a seven day week one year after becoming emperor due to the fact that it was to heavy on people working 9 days with one day rest. Six days work with one day off worked better, at the time. Must have been a popular decision? We have not seen the same enthusiasm in Europe this time around.

They write articles in Wikipedia on the 35 hour workweek and claim the conservatives don't like it while the left oriented parties favor it. This must be a fundamental dividing line then between the right and the left. I for one believe that man is built to work and that successively lowering working time for people like apparently the Sustainable Development Commission of the British government suggests is kind of depressive. The article claims that they want the Britons to take out productivity increases in lower working time rather than pay increases. It is interesting in this context that the British government acts against the recommendation by SDC-UK on nuclear energy and is building new reactors.

Exactly which workweek that is the optimal for a given population is of course a variable that can be tested and confirmed by research. However, this is quite an undertaking that would have to run over generations to assay medical effects on people and the results from the development of the economy. The 35 hour workweek law of France has been successively weakened so it seem like there might be a force bringing it back to approximately 40 hours. Furthermore, the number of jobs has not increased as a result of the law but people rather work harder while they are at work to compensate.

One argument in favor of maintaining the present 40 hour workweek is that many jobs are so difficult that they require long hours per week and that it is therefore necessary for employees to keep up for solidarity and team spirit. Our welfare depends on these jobs. I don't think we can sneak away from work and taking in cultural aspects very soon become work in the form of studies and would have to be counted as such. What is probably better is to arrange the society in a fashion that is more biological in that people differ in their ability to work and that it should be acceptable to work all kinds of workweeks. That, however, would challenge equality aspects of human enterprise.

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