Just Reproduction, Production and Consumption

Reduction of working hours

What's the problem?

On the one hand, increasing digitalisation and automation is predicted in many areas in the upcoming years. This would mean a sharp rise in unemployment if economic growth did not occur and working hours remained the same.

At the same time, unemployment is only a problem if it is accompanied by insufficient security and a lack of opportunities to participate in society or to work according to needs. The establishment of commons-based peer production (see → Commons) and new forms of having, which break the ecologically incompatible compulsion to grow, represents a living alternative to this. However, this also means that working hours are being reduced. Although an ecologically oriented structural change with more social services instead of the production of goods will lead to more working time again in the short term, it is precisely in these areas that a departure from the logic of competition is particularly urgent.

What's the measure?

If the volume of gainful employment of a company beyond growth decreases or stagnates, individual working hours could be shortened in order to give everyone the option of acquisition on the one hand and a work-life balance and time sovereignty on the other.

How can the implementation look like?

  • Reduction of the working week to at least 32 hours. Development of programs that support companies and organizations in implementing job sharing. The resulting loss of income may only affect the 10% of the highest income.
  • Relieving the burden of labour in non-wage labour costs, especially for low and medium incomes, primarily by financing the social security systems in other ways (e.g. through higher taxation of nature consumption and redistribution) and through lower taxes on low incomes.
  • Financial incentives for the introduction of short full-time work with wage compensation for low and medium incomes
  • Stronger legal entitlements to part-time work or sabbaticals with guaranteed return possibilities and job sharing.

How can climate change be counteracted and how can economic conditions be created that support effective climate protection measures?

Since economic growth always goes hand in hand with rising emissions and increasing consumption of resources, but is necessary in the existing system in order to compensate for the loss of jobs through rationalisation and digitisation, among other things, this measure helps to maintain jobs in a socially just manner even in an economy that is no longer growing or shrinking.

How quickly can the measure be implemented?

Step by step from now on. 

References to other measures

Redistribution from top to bottom ( {translationof orig_page="Umverteilung von oben nach unten" translation_lang="en" translation_page=""}), basic and maximum income ({translationof orig_page="Grund- und Maximaleinkommen" translation_lang="en" translation_page=""}) promote the reduction of working hours and time sovereignty. Flanking ecological upper limits and an ecological tax reform make it more difficult to use the time freed up for material consumption. Financial and infrastructural safeguards promote time sovereignty and the democratic shaping of society.

Problems of social, global and intergenerational justice

As long as there is no fundamental change in the world of work, unintended distributional effects between rich and poor and between national competing states will continue to arise in the work process. At the same time, the compulsion to grow remains, which is why intergenerational justice is not possible. Not least for reasons of justice, parallel to the reduction of gainful employment time, the parallel development of → common-creating peer production is needed.

Further literature and sources

  1. Schmelzer, Matthias & Vetter, Andrea (2019): Degrowth/Postwachstum zur Einführung.
  2. Research & Degrowth: Ye, We Can Prosper Without Growth (2015, abgerufen am 2.3.2020)

Yes, we can prosper without growth:

Matthias Schmelzer, Andrea Vetter, Degrowth/Postwachstum