Just when you thought you'd heard it all, along comes the Labour bigwigs backing an absolutely loony-tunes proposal for a ten hour working week.

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Doesn't it sound so attractive, no-one will work more than ten hours a week and we can save the environment from the climate emergency and have a much better work-life balance in the process.

The numbers in the report by Philipp Frey for Autonomy all crunch out right in the spread sheets and the formulas all add up.

What it seems to be saying is that, if the country is economically much more idle then we can save the planet and everything will be great.

The Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, said of it:

"This is a vital contribution to the growing debate around free time and reducing the working week."

And Leo Murray, who is an adviser for the shadow Treasury minister, Clive Lewis, said:

"I like this take a lot."

There you are, bash the bosses, have more free time and save the environment all in one fell swoop!

So, what's not to like?

Well, the first one is that it would also mean a reduction of about 75% in wages.

And, as the Conservative Party Chairman, MP Brandon Lewis said:

"The reality is this policy would slash people's earnings and hammer the economy."

But I would go much further.

Adopting such a policy would require a massive increase in the state and I mean massive, with an equally massive increase in taxes taken out of those vastly reduced salaries to pay for it.

And it would in my estimation, actually force the average person to work far harder and for far longer as a result.

Why do I say that, well let's think this one through just a little bit and I'm only scratching the surface here.

Now, the latest stats from the ONS show that the average working week for a full time worker in February this year was 37.5 hours. So the advocates of this idea want to reduce that by about 73%.

And I've produced this rather exciting graph to show you how much the UK working week in hours has changed since April 1992, through all the technological innovations, time saving devices and the introduction of industrial scale computing into the workplace etc.

Anyway, let's get down to the basics.

I'll start off by asking how much will the average child learn in a school that's only open ten hours a week?

Ah! You'll say, that would have to be different. So, either teachers have to work for 27.5 hours a week (at least) more than everyone else, which is 2.75 times longer. Or we need to increase the number of teachers by about 3.75 times the number they are today.

And the same could be said about our universities where our teachers get their degrees. As well as our doctors, nurses and veterinarians. Will doctors and vet surgeries only be open ten hours a week?

Then we can get onto the police, social workers, hospital porters, garbage lorry operators, etc, etc, etc.

Then of course come the farmers who grow the food, the drivers that deliver it to the shops and the shops and supermarkets where we buy our stuff. All those people only working ten hours a week – say goodbye to long opening hours and say hello to shops being shut on Sundays again.

And that's if we can actually afford to buy anything, if our wages are stripped by 75%.

How about the people that work in our power stations, water works and road maintenance?

We already have record employment numbers and the only place to get more people to fill that 27.5 hour gap, would be to employ youngsters and vastly increasing the pension age – very Victorian, or import even more people into the country.

And how will this ten hour working week be enforced, back to the clocking in and out maybe – and the self employed?

And because we've got no money, all that extra leisure time will be spent only being able to do very low or zero cost activities, like sitting in parks that are only maintained for pro rata ten hours a week and borrowing books from libraries that are only open ten hours a week.

Or illegally moonlighting.

But some would say that surely automation could help raise productivity here?

But automation takes power and, if this is about being economically idle in order to save the planet, then automation is surely self defeating.

And if automation actually worked on this scale, don't you think it would already be happening – we can't even have auto checkouts at supermarkets without someone hovering about to make sure it all works and they sometimes get swamped as machines break down and barcodes don't work.

But the other fall out will be that ordinary people, not the rich, the ordinary people will have to start doing things like producing their own food from allotments and gardens and making their own clothing – just to survive. And then for parents there's the extra 27.5 hours of time you'll need to educate your children.

And all that activity will more than fill the time gained from only working ten hours a week at a job. Bonus free time? No chance!

This would be austerity driven by a lack of workers time, as opposed to a lack of money.

This is a great way to take the UK population back to the 1800s as far as I can see. And that's exactly what some politicians in one or two of our parties seem to want to see happen.

Sources:

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7120817/Labour-plans-bring-10-hour-week-tackle-climate-change.html

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/9253266/labour-work-cuts-pay-climate-change/

https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/earningsandworkinghours/timeseries/ybuy/lms

http://autonomy.work/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/The-Ecological-Limits-of-Work-final.pdf

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