Four day weekends FTW!

Growing up in the Eighties, you’d often hear hoary old Tories arguing that Thatcher was a good thing, because she took on the unions. ‘It was terrible, the three day week and all that.’

I always assumed they meant that the unions had demanded everyone only had to work three days a week. I thought it sounded like a brilliant idea and I couldn’t really understand the joyless old sods’ objections. Turns out actually I’d got it all wrong, and the three day week was about coal shortages. But I still think it would be a great idea.

This bank holiday weekend has been glorious. I know, obviously the weather’s helped. But it’s not just that. Everywhere I’ve been there’s been such a holiday atmosphere. ‘Yay, we don’t have to be back at work for FOUR WHOLE DAYS!’

You know how some weekends you’re just knackered, and you don’t go out and do much, and by Sunday evening you’re thinking, ‘Well now I feel a bit recovered, I quite fancy going out and doing something fun’, but you can’t, cos it’s Monday tomorrow and you’re back at work. And other weekends you do lots of stuff and have fun, but by Sunday evening you’re thinking, ‘Well now I feel a bit knackered, I quite fancy chilling out tomorrow and recovering’, but you can’t, cos it’s Monday tomorrow and you’re back at work. With a four day weekend you’ve got time for both!

Let’s face it, most employed people work too much and have a shit work/life balance. People are unhappy. They don’t spend enough time with their kids, or doing things that give their lives meaning.

We’ve also got at least 2.5 million people unemployed.

Now obviously you can’t get an unemployed, unskilled 19 year old filling in for a neurosurgeon. But most of us could probably do a bit of our boss’s job. If everyone worked a three day week, some of what they do now could be done by the person underneath them, until you got to the jobs that the 19 year old could do perfectly competently. (And anyway, there’s plenty of skilled people out of work at the moment).

Those working at the moment would be happier. The presently unemployed would be economically active and could feel they were contributing to society. (Yes, I know, you can be unemployed but still contributing positively to society. However, under our present economic system, many people when they are out of work DO feel that they are not valued or useful.)

Everyone would get to work and contribute to the economic prosperity of the nation (or whatever it is we’re supposed to be doing). But they could also spend more time with their friends and families, in community activities, reading books, walking in the park, learning the accordion, WHATEVER THEY WANT TO DO.

I imagine that some will say it wouldn’t work economically. They couldn’t live on what they’d earn in three days. But I think that for most people that’s just not true.

You need less money when you’ve got more time. You can cook food instead of getting a take away. You can walk places instead of using a car. You can do little jobs around the house yourself, instead of paying someone to do them. You can actually spend time playing with your kids in the park, instead of buying them playstations to make up for never seeing them.

We really don’t need half so much STUFF. When you’re more relaxed and fulfilled you don’t need perfume or spa treatments or a new plasma bloody telly to make you feel better about yourself. You’ve got sunsets and holding hands and daydreams.

For the lowest paid, we’d simply have to up the minimum wage to make this viable. Which I’m sure we could do if we really wanted by paying bankers and people less.

We can get off the rat race.  We can downsize our entire society. We can be more fulfilled and happy as human beings, which is surely what we’re trying to achieve with the way we arrange the world. So let’s bloody do it!

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  • alice  On April 25, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    Nods lots.

    I’d add you can take time to grow food rather than buy it, you can take time to make/ fix your own clothes, to walk places. Also, take time to do a bit of volunteering and/ or creative work that won’t pay much (paint a picture, write a poem).

  • matriarchalutopia  On April 25, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Yes, exactly. Think how much nicer it would be!

  • Peter Bagnall  On April 25, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    Amen. I remember at school being told in geography lessons that this is the way it would be. I was rather looking forward to it! Disappointing to find it never happened. And long past time when we made it happen.

  • Jo Brodie  On April 25, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    Funnily enough I’m on day 5 of 12 days off and I’m quite enjoying it, sorting out paperwork at home and getting little jobs done 🙂

    Generally though, I think I’d like a four day working week rather than a three dayer… however I won’t stand in your way if you look likely to push a three day week through!


  • Alec  On April 25, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    Personal preference would be for a week of eight ten-hour days followed by a six-day weekend (though that might not work for everyone). It’s almost like having a week off every other week.

    I think the main difference the four-day weekend makes is that you stop thinking of the weekend as just “time to recover from the week” and actually start thinking about it as, well, real time that you have to yourself.

    There’s nothing stopping people from working a three-day week even now; you’d just have to get used to a rather lower standard of living (more like people had in, say, the 1960s). Bedsits and tinned peas here we come.

  • Matriarcal  On April 25, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    Congratulations for your blog. I would like to read more of your ideas for a “matriarchal” society. Our money-ego-centered culture needs a deep change. Ants, bees, elephants and wales are more organised than we “rational” homo sapiens are… because they are matriarchal!!! 🙂
    Have you heard about the Mosuo society?

  • matriarchalutopia  On April 26, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    Peter – I know! All those people who predicted that in the future we’d have so much leisure time apparently got it a bit wrong…

    Jo – you can always spend some of the weekend volunteering or something if you like. Or you can even work a day of overtime if you really want to. The Matriarchal Utopia isn’t a fascist state:-).

    Alec – I think that’s spot on. It’s about the time off feeling like enough time to do stuff. And also not being half over as soon as it’s begun…

    Matriarcal – Thank you. I’m afraid my blogging is a bit haphazard, but I do have lots of theories:-)

    Yes, I do know the Mosuo. I went to Lugu Lake a few years ago while travelling in China. It was awesome! Although, wikipedia claims they aren’t completely matriarchal (unfortunately, my mandarin wasn’t up to an involved conversation about their social structure with anyone…)

  • Em  On April 28, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    Sounds lovely! But I support a family of 5 on my wage and there’s no way we could afford to live on a 3 day week wage. We already walk instead of taking the car. We already spend time playing with our kids and don’t have playstations. We already prepare our own meals rather than have takeaways. We already do the jobs around the house ourselves instead of paying someone else to do them. And our situation is not uncommon. So holding hands and daydreams are all well and good, but they don’t pay the mortgage or feed and clothe my family. It’s the 5 day week that does that.

  • matriarchalutopia  On April 30, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    Hi Em, thanks for commenting. I know what you’re saying, but that’s what I mean in my penultimate paragraph. I propose that the minimum wage would be increased so that it was a living wage for people working three days a week.

    There is an obscenely large gap between what the richest earn and what the lowest waged earn. And that gap has been increasing.

    The quote below is from The Poverty Site:-

    “Over the last decade, the poorest tenth of the population have, on average, seen a fall in their real incomes after deducting housing costs. In other words, after adjusting for inflation, their incomes are, on average, slightly lower than a decade ago. This is in sharp contrast with the rest of the income distribution, which, on average, has seen substantial rises in their real incomes.

    The richest tenth of the population have seen much bigger proportional rises in their incomes than any other group.”

    Extreme income inequality like this is unfair, destructive and makes a society dysfunctional. I recommend reading, ‘The Spirit Level’ to anyone who’s interested in the topic.

  • matriarchalutopia  On April 30, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    PS, obviously in the Matriarchal Utopia looking after, supporting and developing kids would be a priority. I believe by any rational analysis it is the most important thing our society does. So you would have a lot more help and support than you do now.

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