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the benefits of work sharing
May 22, 2011 1:49 PM   Subscribe

Work Sharing - "Work-sharing schemes, in many different forms, are becoming the norm in Holland and Denmark, and have made inroads in France and Germany. The key element in any such approach is to separate work from income.

"A Danish law enacted in 1993 recognizes a right to work discontinuously, while also recognizing people's right to a continuous income. It allows employees to choose a 'sabbatical' year, which could be divided into shorter periods, every four or seven years. Unemployed people would take the place of those on leave, who, for their part, would receive 70% of the unemployment benefit they would get if they lost their jobs (typically, 90% of one's salary). Danish unions have managed to use such statutory individual rights to reduce the working hours of entire company workforces, and thus increase the number of permanent jobs. The idea of a universal basic income, paid to all citizens, independent of their position in the labor market, is a logical next step."

BONUS
We're Not All Rocket Scientists - "My point is that along with—not instead of!—policies that make higher education more accessible, we need strategies to improve the quality of these jobs as well. The fact is, as the table in the earlier post showed, we expect to create a lot more of these types of jobs in the future (note that they're in the 'non-tradable' sector so they're not going overseas). Commenters mentioned unions and minimum wages, and they have traditionally helped raise wages in service jobs. Working training can help too, though when you hear people talking about cutting 'discretionary spending', that's where many of those training dollars reside. But here's another point to keep in mind. The last time pay in jobs like these really went up was in the latter 1990s, when labor demand was strong and unemployment was low (and btw, immigration flows were greater in those years than they are now). From the perspective of the workers who hold these types of jobs, there may be no social program more effective than full employment." [1,2,3]

Tips on jobs from Zappos for US - "Some of this may mean all of us paying a little more to those who cut our hair and sell us our clothes. But this is exactly what we did a half century ago to spur recovery by paying more to the workers who make our cars and appliances and build our homes." [1,2,3]

Keynes for the 21st century - "rich countries should be making preparations for life beyond capitalism"
Keynes predicted, mankind was likely to suffer 'a general nervous breakdown', because it would have been deprived of its traditional purpose. People would still have to do some work 'for contentment'. Three hour shifts or a 15 hour week will 'put off the problem for a little'. But in the end what would be needed was no less than a 'new code of morals'. We shall have to breed out, or breed down, purposefulness and breed up carpe diem – 'the delightful people who are capable of taking direct enjoyment in things – the lilies of the valley who enjoy to breathe the air – the rare angelic beings who are perfectly good, which is almost the same thing as to say that they have no purpose whatever'.

All this, remember, was supposed to happen about now, or in the very near future, at least in rich countries. It hasn't worked out like that, but it challenges to think why, and to rethink social arrangements forged in an era of scarcity for us in an age of abundance.

Although we should remember and honour Keynes as a great theorist of stabilization policy he has more to offer the 21st century than that. Because he asks the fundamental question that no economist now dares to ask: what is our economic civilization for? What is the purpose of money? What is the relation between money and the good life? Or more simply: 'How much is enough?'
posted by kliuless (25 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite

 
I wish the US were 1/5 as socialist as the least socialist EU country or even 1/10 as socialist as conservatives claim we are.
posted by DU at 2:22 PM on May 22, 2011 [25 favorites]


Wow. Amazing idea, I would love to see a company here in the US that would allow some sort of work-sharing arrangement, regardless of any sort of pay-for-non-work. Sadly, US companies all seem to want to employ the minimum number of people possible, simply burning them out and replacing them as the work load requires it.

Granted, in my field, I don't know quite how well something like that would work - You can't just find a drop-in replacement for my role on a long-term programming project. But if I could take three months off after finishing that project, well, that wouldn't suck.
posted by pla at 2:51 PM on May 22, 2011


Is this something I'd have to live in a relatively sane and compassionate country to understand?
posted by treepour at 2:54 PM on May 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


"The key element in any such approach is to separate work from income."

Isn't there some sort of markup language for that?
posted by bz at 2:59 PM on May 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Granted, in my field, I don't know quite how well something like that would work - You can't just find a drop-in replacement for my role on a long-term programming project. But if I could take three months off after finishing that project, well, that wouldn't suck.

More like, your services would be attached to a project rather than a company. You start a project, ride it until its done, and then have the opportunity to either take a work-share break or to move on to another project. Workers could be recruited/drafted as their skills were required, rather than a company having to always make the parts fit with the workers currently in their pool.

I can see it working for programming, most certainly. It just requires a totally different way to look at what employment means.
posted by hippybear at 3:10 PM on May 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


hippybear, that's starting to sound a lot like what freelancers call work-for-hire. In general, it suits folks who like to have exactly that sort of freedom, but also are okay with passing up healthcare and retirement packages.

Now if only there were some way to guarantee healthcare and retirement that wouldn't require it to come from an employer...
posted by phenylphenol at 3:43 PM on May 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


phenylphenol: yes, except I'm looking at it through the lens of the material in the FPP, talking about people being able to take time off at reduced pay but not being out of work or sacrificing benefits while they do it.

I know all about work-for-hire and independent contracting. It's a hellish kind of existence best suited for the young or those who already have support and are looking to keep themselves busy.
posted by hippybear at 4:12 PM on May 22, 2011


Work-sharing schemes, in many different forms, are becoming the norm in Holland and Denmark

Well, regardless of the merits of "work sharing", this is wishful thinking at best. It is simply not true.
posted by eeeeeez at 4:52 PM on May 22, 2011


eeeeeez...do you have a link or cite? Or live there?

Not saying you're wrong, but it would be good to know the basis for your assertion.
posted by emjaybee at 5:14 PM on May 22, 2011


emjaybee: Is there a basis for the assertion that this is the norm as stated in the article? The article gives no figures on the occurence of this in Holland and Denmark.
posted by sien at 6:14 PM on May 22, 2011


When I took Danish, we spent some time watching these slightly ridiculous Consider Denmark videos. I recall one plugging this law to demonstrate how worker/person-friendly Denmark is. There was another targeting businesses playing up the fact that you can fire anyone at will. So the article doesn't quite give the whole story--there's a tradeoff.

That's the sum total of my knowledge of Danish employment law. Hopefully someone in Denmark can come along and correct me.
posted by hoyland at 6:34 PM on May 22, 2011


or those who already have support and are looking to keep themselves busy

Which is what the article is saying. A welfare system that included retirement and healthcare benefits along with a universal income floor takes away the bulk of the downside of freelancing/contracting.
The shift required is a mental one, about keeping up with the Joneses, rather than work per se, at least in most developed countries where the healthcare/pension issues are taken care of (not in the USA obviously).
For me to choose a lower standard of living in exchange for less work time, is hard.
Especially because the maximum work time is the default, and I would need to make an effort to choose the less work path.
I *could* chuck in my full time job and work occasional contracts to cover my expenses knowing my health care and pension needs are adequately in place, but the lure of shiny things, flash holidays and nicer housing is pervasively marketed (not least to my spouse and children) so the lure of the extra dollar is strong.
posted by bystander at 6:35 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


but also are okay with passing up healthcare and retirement packages.

Wait. There are companies still offering retirement packages?
posted by schmod at 7:12 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also of interest, LaFargue's 1880 opus, The Right to Be Lazy, a Marxist critique of the Right to Work. Worth the read if only for the chapter, "The Rights of the Horse and the Rights of Man", which contains such gems as:
The Rights of Horses have not been posted up; they are 'unwritten rights,' as Socrates called the laws implanted by Nature in the consciousness of all men. The horse has shown his wisdom in contenting himself with these rights, with no thought of demanding those of the citizen; he has judged that he would have been as stupid as man if he had sacrificed his mess of lentils for the metaphysical banquet of Rights to Revolt, to Equality, to Liberty, and other trivialities which to the proletariat are about as useful as a cautery on a wooden leg."
posted by The White Hat at 8:21 PM on May 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


For me to choose a lower standard of living in exchange for less work time, is hard.
I did this, and although it's bliss to have spent the last couple of hours getting my daughter ready for school and will spend the rest of the day with my SO, there is still that nagging little bastard at the back of my mind which whispers "Galaxy Tab Galaxy Tab "

Also, "why didn't you go for that promotion" starts to get asked with a little more suspicion the closer you get to 40.
Answering by comparing annual leave entitlement never gets old though.
posted by fullerine at 1:16 AM on May 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


I made a conscious decision 10 years ago to reduce my needs and cost of living in order to obviate the necessity for constant work - I could never understand the mindset that required one to work every hour god sends just to be able to afford to stay alive long enough to... work every hour.

I left London and moved to Spain, first to Barcelona as a stepping stone and now in Granada, in the south. I'm a composer, so I work for myself, and can now afford to pick and choose the jobs I take on (which are found for me by my agent/publisher - I know a lot of freelancers who spend all the time they save by freelancing on looking for the next gig). I maybe work a third of a year in two or three week bursts, and that enables me to enjoy the lifestyle I desire in a place that's affordable but offers me everything I need.

It's all about making a choice and sacrificing some - either you sacrifice free time, or you sacrifice desire - you can't have both.
posted by benzo8 at 5:40 AM on May 23, 2011


hippybear : I know all about work-for-hire and independent contracting. It's a hellish kind of existence best suited for the young or those who already have support and are looking to keep themselves busy.

It also makes for great side-projects... But to live off it? In my best year, I made enough from contracting that I could have lived off it; in my worst year - Well, I don't currently work full-time for less than a third of my hourly contracting rate because I like the 9-to-5 grind. :)

If I could find some way to have a reasonably stable income while doing pure contracting, I'd do so in a heartbeat. At this point in my life, however, the mortgage and car loan holders expect a check once a month, not a single large payment every three to five months.
posted by pla at 6:03 AM on May 23, 2011


eeeeeez...do you have a link or cite? Or live there?

Not saying you're wrong, but it would be good to know the basis for your assertion.
posted by emjaybee at 5:14 PM on May 22 [+] [!]


emjaybee: Is there a basis for the assertion that this is the norm as stated in the article? The article gives no figures on the occurence of this in Holland and Denmark.
posted by sien at 6:14 PM on May 22 [+] [!]


So we're fighting no figures with no figures?

I mostly just wanted to know how eeeeez knew, automatically, that this was nonsense--and being a Dutch or Danish citizen would certainly be one credible way. Since he/she didn't reply, I don't know if that's the case or if he/she is just shooting off his/her mouth.

Usually here on the Blue, we don't just say YOU LIE to the assertion of the OP and leave it at that--we provide links, or at least some sort of personal first-hand knowledge, that something is off. It's just nicer that way.

So sien, do you have any reason to think the link in the post is a load of bollocks? Please share them. Or flag the post and report it to the mods. It's all ok by me.
posted by emjaybee at 9:17 AM on May 23, 2011


A New York City 'Living Wage'?
posted by kliuless at 11:54 AM on May 23, 2011


It is true, this exists in Denmark.
I'm the worst person to prove this, since I'm a workaholic, but every other person I know is using this system to the max.
posted by mumimor at 1:08 PM on May 23, 2011


It's interesting to note that both the Netherlands and Denmark are currently ruled by liberal-conservative minority governments with support from right wing anti-immigration parties. So, you know.. it's not all lovely socialists spreading healthcare and free bicycle rides. A lot of European countries are struggling with the economy, the burdens of the Eurozone, immigration and surging populist parties.

Of course, what we call right-wing would probably still be regarded borderline communism in the United States. In fact, the Dutch "extreme right" PVV is in fact almost entirely in line with the Socialist Party when it comes to economics, and presumably only called right wing because of their scaremongering populist anti-Islam message.
posted by Harry at 3:27 PM on May 23, 2011


I just think this is entirely divorced from reality. Work is rapidly delaminating into location-based and do-able anywhere. The number of people competing for the do-anywhere jobs is increasing every year, and the list of location-specific jobs keeps shrinking. Those who want to remain employed are going to have to compete harder and harder to do so. If you've got a good job somewhere, you're not going to take six months off and let someone else figure out how to do what you're doing.
posted by newdaddy at 4:01 PM on May 23, 2011


newdaddy : If you've got a good job somewhere, you're not going to take six months off and let someone else figure out how to do what you're doing.

I tend to agree that I don't see the current trend of people working themselves to death changing within my lifetime.

That said, your objection very much counts as a self-fulfilling prophecy. We currently have a 9% unemployment rate in the US. If everyone agreed to work 2/3rds as many hours, we'd have a 23% more jobs than bodies to fill them. Rather than people working themselves even harder to desperately cling to any job they can get, we'd have far more worker mobility, allowing people a better chance to find a job they really like.

Of course, too small a labor-pool has its own side effects, too, but I think we'd do well to find some balance that doesn't leave everyone miserable.
posted by pla at 4:52 PM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


emjaybee: You could have easily looked at eeeez's profile to see that he is in Holland.

After that statement and yours and looking at the article it appeared that there were no numbers. It seemed a big claim. Possibly someone who was into this would know where to get these things.

It appears that the occurrence in Denmark sited by the EU is a few thousand out of a probable work force of, let's say, half the population of Denmark so about 2.5m. Then the assertion in the opinion piece about such arrangements being 'the norm' was not strong at best.
posted by sien at 1:45 AM on May 24, 2011


Not the norm in Denmark at all in the sense of all people taking a sabbatical, but certainly fairly common. Also I seem to remember a lot of people in the Netherlands are on some sort of part-time scheme.

This:
The idea of a universal basic income, paid to all citizens, independent of their position in the labor market, is a logical next step.
is nowhere near reality in Denmark. Sadly. As Harry notes, Denmark is currently ruled by a coalition that lets the nationalist Danish People's Party call all the shots on immigration as long as they get to push tax cuts for the rich. This puts a certain pressure on the system when tax revenue shrinks.

sien, there are more people in Denmark on some sort of state benefit (counting high school students and pensioners) than there are people working if I remember correctly.
posted by brokkr at 3:55 AM on May 26, 2011


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