Do you know that American work hours went down steadily from 1840 until the Great Depression but have not gone down at all since then? Do you know that European work hours have continued to go down and that Dutch workers have the right to choose part-time work, so they can work as much as they want rather than having to work full time?
No one is talking about these facts, but this book shows that they are crucial to building a future that is environmentally sustainable and that works for people.
Americans believe we need rapid economic growth to create jobs and avoid unemployment, but that is because we do not have the choice of working shorter hours. Because the Dutch can choose part-time work, they can avoid unemployment by creating the amount of work people actually want.
We have reached the point where economic growth no longer brings significant benefits. International comparisons show that higher-income no longer improves a nation’s happiness, health, or educational achievement significantly after it reaches about two-thirds of the current American level. And postwar America’s push to promote automobile use to stimulate the economy actually made our cities less livable.
American and Dutch employees produce about the same amount per hour, but the average American employee works 25% more than the average Dutch employee. The available measures of well-being show that all the extra work doesn’t do us any good.
In the course of this century, most nations of the world could emerge from poverty and have a comfortable middle-class standard of living if we can avoid ecological crisis. But that is a big “if.”
To create a sustainable economy with a high quality of life, it is essential for the world to follow the Dutch model of lower inequality, shorter work hours and slower growth rather than the current American model of high inequality, long work hours and rapid growth.
But no mainstream politician is talking about the crucial issue of work time.
The ABCs of Global Warming by Charles Siegel is also on Whizbuzz Books.