Independent think-tank New Economics Foundation (nef) has published a report calling for a reduction in the normal working week to 21 hours. It argues this would “help address a range of urgent, interlinked problems: 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.”
The nef report, 21 hours: Why a shorter working week can help us all to flourish in the 21st century, says across the world people work longer hours now than 30 years ago. It acknowledges some people might earn less as a result of working less hours, but says these people would have more time to carry out “worthy tasks”, such as looking after children or other dependents and civic duties.
So why 21 hours?
Well, according to nef, this is close to the average that people of working age in Britain spend in paid work and just a little more than the average spent in unpaid work.
Co-author Anna Coote told BBC News: “So many of us live to work, work to earn, and earn to consume, and our consumption habits are squandering the earth’s natural resources.
“Spending less time in paid work could help us to break this pattern. We’d have more time to be better parents, better citizens, better carers and better neighbours.
“We could even become better employees – less stressed, more in control, happier in our jobs and more productive.
“It is time to break the power of the old industrial clock, take back our lives and work for a sustainable future.”
UK working time limits
Under the UK Working Time Regulations, a person does not have to work more than 48 hours a week, unless they choose to do so, or work in a sector with its own special rules.
Most people in Britain work less than 48 hours a week, however, by virtue of their employment contracts.
** Additional Information & Advice **
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