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!