A 15 Hour Work Week is like a dream come true for most people. Imagine a 3 hour shift instead of the daily 9 to 6 grind. On such a schedule, you could go for a morning jog and then enjoy a home-cooked hearty breakfast before reporting for work at 10am. Or if you stay quite far away from your workplace, you could opt to work for 5 hours on three days instead to save time spent commuting. At the same time, you will create an enticing 4 day weekend to look forward to every week!
This idea is still a dream (that’s why you are here reading, isn’t it?) but it should have been realised by now, at least according to the famous economist John Maynard Keynes. In 1930, he predicted that within a hundred years, technological advances would support the luxury of 15 hour work weeks for citizens from developed nations. Advanced machinery, sophisticated tools and developed communication systems would result in higher productivity for the human race. Instead of toiling the entire day away to feed ourselves, Keynes argued that 15 hours a week would be enough to provide for our “absolute needs”, unless one chooses otherwise.
These were bold predictions indeed in the year the Great Depression started (I reckon a 15 hour work week probably wasn’t that appealing to the swathes of unemployed). However, even his “eight times better off in the economic sense” forecast has proven to be a tad conservative from the evidence of GDP growth in the past 80 years.
Since that’s the case, you must be asking why aren’t we working 15 hour work weeks now?
“While Malthus was too pessimistic, disregarding technological advances, Keynes was just too optimistic at what technological advances could do. A much shorter work week is just another of those failed predictions. The vast majority just isn’t earning enough and Keynes failed to take into account the growing economic inequality. Why would anyone choose to work more unless we HAVE to? A 15 Hour Work Week has not happened and I seriously doubt I will ever see it in my lifetime.”
Or that’s what all the critics say. I mean, Keynes can’t be right since it’s impossible for ALL OF US to CHOOSE to work 40 hours a week.
Sad to say, from my interpretation of his work, I believe Keynes to be absolutely spot on, with the desire to satisfy our “relative needs” being his ultimate caveat. In this time and age, you (the fact that you have spare time and the access to the infrastructure to read this blog) and I should only need to work for 15 hours a week to afford our “absolute needs”, which is basic food, shelter and security. The next 25 hours are then spent chasing after “relative needs”, the bigger house, the more luxurious car and the more exotic vacation, expenditure that’s supposed to make us “feel superior to our fellows”, as Keynes puts it.
The fact is, we have unconsciously opted to participate in a 40 hour work week to meet our insatiable and growing desires, or simply to keep up with the Jones.
Aha! Liberation! But before you approach your boss to demand a 60% reduction in work hours immediately, I do urge some restraint. Unless you are already above 50/in poor health/have a young child/got found out surfing the Internet 60% of the time in your job, you are likely going to get a “Are you joking?” look from your supervisor. If you insist, they could even wonder if you’re just too lazy to submit an official resignation letter.
Unfortunately in modern society, there’s really little incentive for employers to reduce work hours since most employees are paid on a monthly basis. Requesting for a job that only requires a 15 hour weekly shift would likely restrict one to either part-time work or self-employment, unless you are very lucky to find an enlightened employer.
Also, in comparison to a full-time job, you will likely be drawing a much smaller paycheck (at least initially), and my hunch is that new readers are probably not prepared for this Cold Hard Truth. Fearing the worst, the most conservative would even advise you to be financially independent or able to retire comfortably before attempting such an audacious move. However, my view is that since you will still be earning and bringing back some dough, we could set a prudent, but lower target of semi-retirement as the pre-requisite, a license to enjoy the 15 HWW earlier.
In short, this blog will chronicle my journey to create My 15 Hour Work Week and also illustrate an alternative path to guide others along, making it easier for anyone who is also aiming to attain semi-retirement earlier.