Half Work

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  • Shorten the working hours per week to half what it currently is.
  • Reduce people's aspirations (desire for goods)
  • Result: less stress, healthier society


One cause for today's economic woes (complaints about needing two incomes to support a family) is the fact that almost everyone works--both husband and wife, and almost all singles. The cure--to be posited by some economist in the future--is to demand that the amount of work done be reduced. This can be done in two ways. Either one of the genders is barred from working (which presents the problem of singles) or the amount of work be cut to 4-6 hours maximum for everyone. Overtime work will likewise be restricted.

The theory behind this change goes as such:

  1. Costs of goods/services depend on supply. Greater demand and reduced supply results in higher prices. Reduce supply and prices increase.
  2. Now here's the change: Half work supply
  3. Now let's view work/workers as the item.
    1. Reduce supply (hours work performed halved) and prices increase (wages paid to workers double).
    2. Since workers only work half time, this balances out with doubled wages so that the worker holds the same salary.
    3. The remaining time goes into FORCED leisure--NOT overtime, moonlighting, etc.
  4. Simultaneously, let's view goods/services as the item.
    1. Reduce supply (goods/services produced halved) and prices increase (cost of item doubles).
    2. Since worker salary is stagnant while the cost of goods doubles, this means that workers have reduced buying potential.
    3. Reduced buying potential (halved buying capacity) means reduced property (halved property content).
    4. Now here's where psychology comes in. When everyone has reduced property (halved property content), everyone's aspiration for additional goods is reduced (want to have half as much). This phenomenon has been proven by the way society has been going for the past centuries--as more and more women joined the workforce during the time of the industrial revolution, the amount wanted by the workers increased. Conversely, when lately maximum hours were reduced, people's apparent quality of life did not decrease.
    5. When worker aspiration is reduced (want to have half as much), and amount of goods is reduced (halved property content), these two forces balance out, and the worker's contentment remains the same. This has been proven many times over as well--people always want a certain amount proportional to what they already have.

We make two observations:

  1. No matter how much people work, a person's contentment does not go up nor down.
  2. Reduced work time results in greater leisure, but less goods overall.


  • Some high-powered high-stressed couples are downshifting (a new term in the 80s?) - trading in their high income jobs for lower income jobs, moving to less expensive locations, avoiding the commute into work, working fewer hours, working at work they find more satisfying, spending more time with each other.
  • Advertisers work hard to increase demand. To promote widespread downshifting, curbs on advertising might be called for.
  • Many employers are not happy to employ skilled people part time. Each employee costs them some fixed overhead, each employee costs time in training and coming up to speed. Two employees each doing 20 hour weeks might be less productive than one employee doing 40 hour weeks.
  • Many employees gain satisfaction from their financial success relative to their peers. This creates a strong pressure to attempt to 'earn more' than their peers. Social engineering is needed to change this, and a change in the consensus around what 'success' is.


Joseph Stalin wrote (circa 1952): "It would be incorrect to think that we can achieve cultural development of the people without significantly changing the nature of work. We must at least shorten the work day to at least 6 hours, and then to 5 hours. This is necessary for all members of society to have enough free time necessary for getting a well-rounded education." Some countries with strong socialist leanings, such as France, also reduced the working time, albeit to smaller extent.

Conversely, average work week in the United States has not shown signs of decreasing and for "knowledge workers" (who do not tire as quickly) can be 80 hours or more.

Any Rays of Hope?

  • With improved technology, it is likely that in 50 years time complex manufactured goods will be far easier and cheaper to produce. For some goods this will not be a factor of two, but more like a factor of hundred. In recent decades that has been true of electronics. A novelty birthday card today that plays tunes and costs one dollar contains more electronic computing power than ENIAC did.

These ideas were originall put forward by User:Yunzhong Hou

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