ECONOMIC TRENDS & Outlook
CREATING JOBS THROUGH SHORTER HOURS
The Government’s Role
The government could encourage bargaining to reduce hours, set an example by adjusting hours on government work and/or enact new workweek legislation. A positive policy would require specific announcement that the Administration would not discourage reductions in hours and would welcome this, at least in particular industries, as one of the variety of measures individual industries might use to bolster employment security.
Setting an example, in its role as an employer as it has done in the past. would require establishment of new reduced workweeks for employees to serve as an experiment and broad guide for private industry. It is worth noting that about a third of U.S. municipal governments already have fulltime workweek schedules shorter than 40 hours for their administrative and clerical employees.
New workweek legislation could of course take many forms. The principal approaches suggested have called for a reduction in the 40-hour standard established by the Fair Labor Standards Act, either immediately or in several steps spread over a period of time and either uniformly for all covered industries or through a special industry committee procedure functioning on an industry-by-industry basis. Each of these alternatives has some past legislative precedent.
Another major suggested legislative approach is a flexible workweek to be adjusted according to changes in the unemployment rate. A federal fund financed by a tax on employers could be established to help maintain weekly pay and national consumer purchasing power upon such reduction in hours. If the payments from the fund were scaled according to whether the employer hired more workers when he reduced hours, there would be an additional incentive for increased employment.