Book calls for shorter working week

Call centreA shorter working week should become the norm so people get better value from their time, according to a new book.

Anna Coote, head of social policy at the new economics foundation (nef), an independent think-tank that promotes innovative thinking on economic, environmental and social issues, suggests: " It's time to make 'part-time' the new 'full-time'.

"We must rethink the way we divide up our hours between paid and unpaid activities, and make sure everyone has a fair share of free time."

In the newly published nef book, Time On Our Side, experts argue that a shorter standard working week would help create more jobs for the unemployed and give people a better chance to live more fulfilling and sustainable lives.

Aiming for a 30-hour week could be possible through gradual changes to the labour market, it was suggested.

It was claimed that following the lead of Belgium, the Government should give all workers a right to request shorter hours, and increase the minimum wage.

Companies should be encouraged to give workers more time off instead of pay rises. Young people starting out in the job market could work a four-day week, as has happened in the Netherlands, it was noted.

Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany have shown it is possible to make changes like these without weakening their economies, it was claimed.

The book also states: "Time spent providing unpaid care constitutes an important civic contribution that is often unrecognised.

"A shorter working week would both ease the pressure on carers, most of whom are women, and enable their responsibilities to be more widely shared with men. It could therefore help tackle the entrenched domestic bases of gender inequalities."

A shorter working week combined with a range of new career breaks could also lower carbon emissions, it was claimed.

Tim Jackson, professor of sustainable development at the University of Surrey, Robert Skidelsky, emeritus professor of political economy at Warwick University, and Juliet Schor, professor in the sociology department, Boston College, are among the book contributors.

Ms Coote said: "We all know the saying 'time is money', but it is much more precious than that.

"Inequalities between rich and poor are widening. This scandal masks another inequality - between those who have plenty of control over their time, and those who don't.

"Time poverty and money poverty often go hand in hand."

"Having too little time to call our own can seriously damage our health and wellbeing, our family life, friendships and communities.

"No one should be made to work long and unsocial hours to make ends meet. Low pay and long-hours working must be tackled at the same time."