21 hour working week?

It’s an open secret that Britain’s economic ‘success’ [sic] is based on a destruction of organised labour and an attendant driving down of wages; deregulation and impoverishment of working conditions and a consequent sky-rocket of stress and depression related illness along with a working week that is considered short if it is under 35 hours. In other words, Britain is working itself into the ground for diminishing returns and so those at the top are the only ones reaping the rewards.

Meanwhile, 2.5 million are ‘officially’ unemployed (with the real figure much higher). This is a pretty grim picture by any standards so it was with some interest I looked at the proposals of the New Economics Foundation for the reduction of the working week to 21 hours. It is welcome that the report recognises that changes would be incremental and would have to be carefully managed to avoid pushing people into poverty.

Given that it is virtually guranteed that part of the shift would have to be the introduction of a guaranteed ‘citizens income’ to make sure that an acceptable standard of living could be maintained. Of course, the knock-on effects for unemployment should be a drastic reduction in those out of work and therefore a drastic saving on welfare bills and an attendant rise in revenue in the form of taxation; all of which would provide money to fund necessary things such as the citizens income.

In setting itself the task of tackling inequality Labour has to address itself to radical arguments like those put forward by the NEF. It also has to challenge the cultural value attached to roles and myth’s like the ‘trickle down’ effect. Some of these things will change naturally, for example, I doubt in the current climate many people would have much problem accepting the following:

Leading bankers collect salaries of between £500,000 and £10 million; top advertising executives are paid between £50,000 and £12 million a year; some tax accountants earn between £75,000 and £200,000. For each £1 of value these workers generate, they destroy, respectively, £7, £11 and £47 of value. 

Childcare workers, hospital cleaners and waste recycling workers – all paid little more than the minimum wage – are found to generate value of between £7 and £12 for each £1 they earn. 

Rather than try and mend the status-quo and return to one that has already proved deficient Labour should seize the moment now to deliver the radical changes that are necessary and people are more ready than ever to accept.

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About darrellgoodliffe

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