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Would You Like a Thirty-Hour Workweek?

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Message Arshad M Khan


Note: Jointly authored with Meena Miriam Yust, this article first appeared on Truthout.org in an edited version.

In the earliest days, foraging was key. Fruits, berries, edible plants and roots comprised a varied diet, the roots often mashed and made into meal.


Then there were days when the men, usually layabouts for foraging, would get the urge in their bellies for meat. That was when all the chatting and bonding paid off. Working together they could down a large beast and share the meat with the whole group " feasting for several days.


No nine-to-five slavery in those times, no five-day work week. That is all of recent vintage. And it leads to an unmistakable Monday-morning feeling ...


Millions of alarm bells sound in the wee hours of the morning, as semi-comatose individuals slide their snooze buttons hoping for a moment's rest before the inevitable rush to the office. The weekend is over. Fun over, work beckons. Marching along like ants going to their own funeral, masses of people will soon swarm into the subway, vying for a seat in a stench-free area, surrounded shoulder to shoulder with others like them.


And for what when we know first-hand, that wage buying power hasn't changed in decades while US income inequality continues to grow. Good luck to the rich who keep getting richer as the stock market booms while trends in wealth show the lower 60 percent have seen a net-worth decline. Can we ever get a real wage increase? Yes, by working fewer hours for the same weekly salary when the overtime on a few hours more would boost our financial health. More money and free time makes for a happier work and life balance. Just as raising the minimum wage, it would have an impact on pay inequality as economist Ben Zipperer made clear in his testimony before Congress last year.


For most of us, next come the Tuesday blues, that lethargic, listless feeling of no escape. Wednesdays mark the halfway point, Thursdays bring the hope of almost-Friday, and then Friday arrives with the joy of the weekend break. But soon it will be Monday morning again. The majority of our lives are spent working. The weekend leaves barely enough time for recovery, laundry, and if we're lucky a smidgen of fun, before returning to the tedium of the five-day work week. It's not that the powers-that-be are unaware of our circumstances. As long ago as 1935, the Senate Judiciary Committee held thirty-hour work-week hearings but the idea failed to get traction. .


But is this weekly misery necessary? And where did it come from?

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Arshad M Khan is a former Professor. Educated at King's College London, Oklahoma State University and the University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background that has frequently informed his research. He was elected a Fellow of the (more...)
 
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