For a few years now, I've been on this board predicting that we'll see a 20 hour work week as the standard within the next 30 years or so.
And until recently it didn't really hit me but I realized one day a couple months back that we are actually in the middle of that transition right this moment.
The current visible culprit is the "unintended" consequence of Obamacare: the 29'ers, or the growing practice of businesses limiting employee hours to 29 so that they don't have to pay for insurance.
Other factors are automation.
And then I read this article the other day and it kind of struck a chord. And I think many of you, who spend a lot of time during the work day on this very site debating politics and looking at WYHI threads, will relate to it as well. On the Phenomenon of Bull shite Jobs
(and please forgive his quoting of Keynes, I almost quit reading at first, but soldier on, it's worth it)
In the year 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that, by century’s end, technology would have advanced sufficiently that countries like Great Britain or the United States would have achieved a 15-hour work week. There’s every reason to believe he was right. In technological terms, we are quite capable of this. And yet it didn’t happen. Instead, technology has been marshaled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more. In order to achieve this, jobs have had to be created that are, effectively, pointless. Huge swathes of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it.
So what are these new jobs, precisely? A recent report comparing employment in the US between 1910 and 2000 gives us a clear picture (and I note, one pretty much exactly echoed in the UK). Over the course of the last century, the number of workers employed as domestic servants, in industry, and in the farm sector has collapsed dramatically. At the same time, “professional, managerial, clerical, sales, and service workers” tripled, growing “from one-quarter to three-quarters of total employment.” In other words, productive jobs have, just as predicted, been largely automated away (even if you count industrial workers globally, including the toiling masses in India and China, such workers are still not nearly so large a percentage of the world population as they used to be).
But rather than allowing a massive reduction of working hours to free the world’s population to pursue their own projects, pleasures, visions, and ideas, we have seen the ballooning not even so much of the “service” sector as of the administrative sector, up to and including the creation of whole new industries like financial services or telemarketing, or the unprecedented expansion of sectors like corporate law, academic and health administration, human resources, and public relations. And these numbers do not even reflect on all those people whose job is to provide administrative, technical, or security support for these industries, or for that matter the whole host of ancillary industries (dog-washers, all-night pizza deliverymen) that only exist because everyone else is spending so much of their time working in all the other ones.
These are what I propose to call “bull shite jobs.”
It’s as if someone were out there making up pointless jobs just for the sake of keeping us all working.
(the whole article is well worth reading)
Anyway, my point is this: We're in the middle of the transition away from a standard 40 hour week. I'd be willing to bet than many of you don't actually work 40 hours in a week, despite probably being at the office that much.
Why do we as a society seem to be holding on to the idea of work for work's sake instead of embracing the liberating effects of automation?