ECONOMIC TRENDS & Outlook
CREATING JOBS THROUGH SHORTER HOURS
The relative merits of alternative economic approaches are not evaluated here. The points below may be useful, however, in assessing the wisdom of hours reduction as against other measures generally:
1. Shortening of hours does not need pinpoint timing for full effectiveness but is practicality and value diminish once a full-fledged recession is in process. The workweek can best be reduced with no loss in weekly pay while the economy is still comparatively prosperous, before unemployment pressures have mounted to become the dominant economic force. If the shorter hours tool is held in reserve too long and turned to only after the full shock of recession or immense load of unemployment arrives, its practicality and positive benefits will be severely blunted. Shorter hours would likely come then largely in an undesirable worksharing, cut-wage form force by overwhelming unemployment and would not be adequate to the task of contributing substantial momentum to employment upturn.
2. Advocacy of shorter hours does not mean rejection of other measures to increase employment. The choice need not and should not be an either/or proposition. Reduction of hours should be one of many steps applied to control unemployment, with the size of the reduction determined by the effectiveness of the overall program. If other measures prove effective in providing needed jobs, hours reduction can of course proceed more gradually.
3. Shorter hours are increasingly recognized by most workers and the public generally as directly related to the unemployment problem. This is not true to the same extent for other measures, such as government fiscal or monetary policies. Because so many workers would be directly or consciously involved in a general shortening of hours, there likely would be a wide sense of participation and appreciation of the anti-unemployment campaign, with accompanying psychological benefits for the economy.
4. Many of the collective agreement and government measures used to ease unemployment effects are geared to helping the unemployed worker hunt for a new job. These include private public retraining programs, relocation aid, counseling, severance pay and approaches. A major objective of shorter hours, on the other hand, is to reduce the need for layoffs and thereby encourage retention of workers in the type of work and industry to which they are already attached and in which they have already acquired training.
5. There is rather wide recognition that rapid technological strides will enable or force radically shorter hours at some point in the future, perhaps not all distant. Reduction in typical hours of work in the present period are necessary to aid in the economic and social transition to increased reliance on technology in place of manpower.