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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Washington Post Discovers Worksharing

Washington Post Discovers Worksharing

Thursday, 24 April 2014 05:25

It's a bit late, but who said the Washington Post can't learn? It ran a nice piece on worksharing, pointing out the impact that reducing work hours can have in preventing unemployment. Those of us who have been working on worksharing for the last five years might be a bit frustrated with the delay, but if even the Washington Post can learn, there is hope for America.

Comments (9)Add Comment
A Matter Of Emphasis And Repetition
written by Jeffrey Stewart, April 24, 2014 8:57
I guess WaPo deserves credit for running one story on work sharing. This is kind of a cover your ass tactic by them. They can assert they publicize the issue pointing to one story. However, the issue is repetition and emphasis. Compare this one instance to the number of times WaPo runs stories on the deficit, the debt as problems, the need for Social Security benefit cuts and intergenerational warfare. Work sharing and other solutions to our problems need a constant drumbeat and repetition at every opportunity in order to penetrate the public's consciousness, form a consensus around a solution and then implement solutions.

There's a news story about a Detroit homeless man who died of exposure here.


If that story was sensationalized and repeated by every capitalist, corporate "news" outlet, then perhaps a consensus would form that the people using the government have to provide people with food, clothing and shelter so they don't die of exposure.
I don't care for work sharing.
written by Ralph Musgrave, April 24, 2014 12:22

Work sharing is very much a 2nd best solution: assuming demand can be raised.

Instead of artificially preventing or dissuading people from working the hours they want, why not raise demand and enable more people to work, and work the hours they want?
written by Kat, April 24, 2014 12:41
Wow. What is not to like about work sharing? Maybe the 40 hour (or 40+) hour work week is an artificial construct too. Seems like the net effect on demand would be minimal.
There is no natural length to the workweek
written by Dean, April 24, 2014 1:18

there is nothing natural about the current length of the workweek or work year. It is affected by all sorts of legal and institutional influences. Many push it toward being longer than would otherwise be the case, most importantly employer-provided health insurance.

To my view, there are good social and family environmental reasons as to why we would want the thumb on the scale for shorter workweeks, but worksharing is about just setting the playing field even. The government will pay you unemployment benefits for being completely unemployed, why shouldn't it be willing to pay you for being partially unemployed?
Dean...what is partially unemployed?
written by pete, April 24, 2014 4:05
You state there is nothing natural about the 40 hour week. So how then can working 30 be 10 hours unemployed? I know several people who work two jobs, about 60 hours a week total. If they lose one and are down to 40 are they parially unemployed? So we give them an additional 50% of their salary to make up for the lost 20 hours?
Partially unemployed means working fewer hours than you would like to be working
written by Dean, April 24, 2014 4:48
Pete-- that one seems pretty straightforward
I still don't care for worksharing.
written by Ralph Musgrave, April 25, 2014 1:46

I fully accept there may be good social reasons to cut the working week. But if everyone is forced or induced to work say 10% fewer hours, I flatly disagree with the idea that that leaves work undone which can then be done by the unemployed. I.e. I disagree with the popular claim that work sharing reduces unemployment.

Reason is that the constraint on raising employment is inflation, and inflation kicks in when employers' problems in finding the labor they want reaches some critical level: which is let’s say when 5% of the workforce are unemployed. Now if everyone works 10% fewer hours, the level of unemployment at which employers start finding it difficult to locate labor will still be 5% (assuming the efficiency with which vacancies are matched to unemployed skills remains constant). Ergo unemployment will remain at 5%.

Having said that, I nearly always agree with your articles, which why I rarely leave comments on your blog!!

permanent "timesizing" easier to explain than halfway step of worksharing?
written by Phil Hyde, April 25, 2014 1:47
Jeffrey, love that "WaPo"!
Ralph, you're right that work sharing is 2nd best solution, but not 2nd best to artificially raising demand when we're already bumping into ecological limits
and cutting demand with a kneejerk downsizing response to every new worksaving technology - worksharing is
only a temporary solution because it imposes on the unemployment insurance system which is essentially a jobseekers' fund (& worksharers aren't essentially
jobseekers), and because it assumes a real economic recovery when it can stop, but no "recovery" is going to be anything but bubble for top brackets & spin for everyone else as long as the standard response to technology remains downsizing and widening the
contradiction between more productive capacity and downsized consumer spending (noting that the higher the bracket, the smaller the percentage of income & wealth spent or donated).
Dean, what would be the natural length of the workweek? wouldn't it vary with increasing levels of technological
worksavings? - look at robotics and lights-out manufacturing (all-robot) - so-o-o, how about Reuther's concept of fluctuating adjustment of the workweek
AGAINST unemployment (UE)? UE too high? trim workweek! - we DID it (haphazardly) for over 100 years (1840-1940) when we halved the workweek from over 80 to 40 hours, but we've dysfunctionally stuck it there through wave after wave of tech worksavings ever since - automation & robotization have gone so far, we can probably stop
advocating based on social/lifestyle OPTIONS and switch to system REQUIREMENTS - e.g: for maintenance (let alone Ralph's raising) of demand - then all we need to take care of is Ralph's doubt about leftover work being
done by the unemployed: so-o,focus our energy on designing smoother and smoother conversion of chronic overtime into OT-targeted training & hiring - details on Timesizing.com
Repetition and Emphasis
written by Right On, April 25, 2014 2:16
Right on, Jeffrey Stewart. We need people to be told about economic realities (the positive effects of stimulus, the negative effect of the trade deficit, work sharing, etc.) over and over again from every possible source until it sinks in by osmosis. Only way to get anything done is to change the conversation. Political figures of the Left in this country have failed unbelievably in the wake of the collapse of the housing bubble in shaping a coherent, useful narrative, likely because they are also unaware of these economic realities (or they are paid to ignore them). I don't see the "End of Loser Liberalism" anytime soon unfortunately; if Obama would get up tomorrow and start talking about work sharing and didn't shut up for the next two years, that would really be something.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.