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Is a 21-hour working week the answer to many current problems?

A new report from nef (the London-based New Economics Foundation) entitled 21 Hours proposes a much shorter ‘normal’ working week to address a range of urgent, interlinked problems including: overwork, unemployment, over-consumption, high carbon emissions, low well-being, entrenched inequalities, and the lack of time to live sustainably, to care for each other, and simply to enjoy life. This publication suggests that moving towards much shorter hours of paid work, with 21 hours as the ultimate goal, offers a new route out of the multiple crises society faces today.

 Many people are consuming well beyond their economic means and well beyond the limits of the natural environment, yet in ways that fail to improve their well-being. At the same time many others are trapped in unemployment and poverty. Continuing economic growth in high-income countries will make it impossible to achieve urgent carbon reduction targets.

There is nothing natural or inevitable about what’s considered ‘normal’ working practice today. It’s a legacy of industrial capitalism. Yet the logic of industrial time is out of step with today’s conditions, where instant communications and mobile technologies bring new risks and pressures, as well as opportunities. The challenge, according to 21 hours is to break the power of the old industrial clock and change the way we use and value paid and unpaid time.  But if less time in paid employment means lower earnings, what can be done to ensure that everyone has a fair living income?  
Social Justice Ireland continues to urge the development of a  Basic Income system as the key to resolving the challenges of work, income and participation in the reality of the 21st century
The Full Report 21 Hours can be downloaded below
PDF icon NEF 21 Hours Report 449.28 KB