I’m taking Friday off—permanently

From a new Social Europe post:

“Traditionally, higher productivity has benefited workers through reductions in working time, among other things. When the TUC was founded in 1868, average working hours were 62 per week. Now (including those who work part-time), average weekly hours have almost halved, to around 32.”

“That change didn’t happen by accident, but was the result of union campaigning. Robert Owen, the socialist pioneer who had popularised the demand for an eight-hour day at the beginning of the 19th century, coined the slogan: Eight hours’ labour, Eight hours’ recreation, Eight hours’ rest.

Following trade-union agitation, the Factory Acts of 1874 were the first kind of legislation to put clear limits on the working day—though back then, at ten hours, they fell short of union demands. The May Day demonstration of 1890, which drew hundreds of thousands of people to Hyde Park in London, was centred around the demand for an eight-hour day—following a call from the international trade-union movement for ‘a great international demonstration’ so that in all countries and all cities, on the appointed day, ‘the toiling masses shall demand of the State authorities the legal reduction of the working day to eight hours’.

And in 1919, when the International Labour Organisation (ILO) met for the first time in the wake of World War I, its initial convention was on working time. The preamble explicitly adopted ‘the principle of the 8 hours day or of the 48 hours week’ (though there was a long list of carve-outs—including the entirety of India).

So trade unions have an eye on history when they see predictions about the potential for extra wealth to be generated from robotics and artificial intelligence. The consultancy firm PWC has estimated that UK gross domestic product will be up to 10 per cent higher in 2030 as a result of artificial intelligence, equivalent to a boost to GDP of more than £20 billion, or extra spending power of up to £2,300 a year per household. One way that wealth could potentially be shared more equitably with workers is through a reduction in working time—as we saw in the last century.”


Posted by at 10:16 AM

Labels: Inclusive Growth


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