business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Interesting piece in the Financial Times the other day by columnist Simon Kuper in which he predicts the dawn of the 30-hour work week.

The reason? “With the global economy growing at its fastest rate since 2011, qualified jobseekers are scarce.”

Kuper goes on: “Finally, workers can make demands. IG Metall, Germany’s biggest trade union, just struck a deal allowing its members to work 28-hour weeks for up to two years, typically when they have small children. Childcare clearly isn’t just a German women’s issue any more: most IG Metall members are men.

“True, Germany is currently something of a workers paradise. But if other national economies keep growing, working hours will soon move up the agenda there too. During booms, more people want to trade money for time.”

Kuper is a little snarky about the US: “Only the US has found a lasting way to make well-off employees work all hours into old age: take away their healthcare insurance if they stop. Yet even there, things may change.

“Amazon is piloting technical teams that work 30-hour weeks for the same benefits and three-quarters the pay of 40-hour employees. Such schemes will become common if the economy keeps growing.”

Kuper notes that “shorter hours won’t help the poorest-paid workers, who can’t afford to work less, or elite workers, who generally love their work and can hire help for household tasks. But for the broad middle in rich countries, a new working life is emerging. The basic workweek will shorten, and individual workers will scale down when they have kids or aged parents to look after.”

And, Kuper argues, at calmer life stages, people will work more because they can and want to; in addition, he says, the flexibility provided by a 30-hour work week “should eventually kill off the ‘mommy track,’ which punishes a woman all through her 45-year career for the few years she spends child-rearing.”

I’m not sure how soon this will become commonplace in the US, but I do think that businesses competing for the best employees may find such innovations to be one way to lure them.

It’s an Eye-Opener.
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