Economist Dean Baker (co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and one of the good guys in that dismal profession) takes up one of my pet obsessions: a shorter work week:

One innovative policy that would provide a quick boost to the economy and jobs — and lasting gains in reduced unemployment — is a tax incentive for shorter workweeks or work years.

How would this help the economy? The tax break would allow the employer to compensate workers for fewer hours up to some limit, say a maximum of $2,500 per worker. That would cut work hours but maintain staffing levels.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

As a result, workers would be getting just as much money as before the reduction in hours — but putting in 10% fewer hours. If workers have the same amount of money, then demand in the economy will be the same. At the same time, firms would then need to hire more workers to meet this demand, since they would be getting 10% fewer hours from each worker.

I once did a column in Fast Company on the ecological benefits of a shorter work week. This seems like one of those things that’s substantively win-win but sociopolitically completely out of reach. People have weird attitudes about work.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free.