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Sharing the Work, Sparing the Planet

Work time, Consumption and Ecology

Anders Hayden

Zed Books Ltd. New York 2000, 256 s., ISBN 1856498182

This book is a comprehensive, up-to-date and thoughtful account of an idea for tackling both persistent unemployment and environmental degradation in industrial societies. Called work time reduction, it is being increasingly discussed and experimented with in many countries, particularly Western Europe. The idea embraces, as this book shows in its account of these experiments, an innovative range of possibilities, including a shorter working week, early retirement and parental leave. The author argues that work time reduction can contribute to reducing ecological stress as an environmentally sound response to unemployment (some 35 million people are jobless in OECD countries) and by encouraging new notions of progress based on more free time rather than more material consumption. The author explores the political, economic and cultural obstacles to be overcome. He describes the numerous practical attempts to begin translating the idea into reality in Canada, the USA, Japan, parts of the South, and Europe. And he explores key questions that need to be thought through: Should it be simply a shorter working week? With or without loss of pay? and with individuals acting voluntarily, or the subject of legislation?