‘Becoming a green, sustainable society:’ Shorter work weeks is one of several strategies

"This new paper from Autonomy is a thought experiment that should give policymakers, activists and campaigners more ballast to make the case that a Green New Deal is absolutely necessary."

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Image Credit: New Economics Foundation

A new study conducted by Autonomy, an independent, progressive think tank focusing on work, concluded that citizens throughout Europe needed to shorten their work weeks to avoid global warming, unless each country drastically reduces their carbon emissions.

Workers in the U.K., Sweden and Germany all need to reduce their work hours to somewhere around nine hours a week to avoid the planet from heating to more than 2 degrees Celsius research concluded.

“Becoming a green, sustainable society will require a number of strategies – a shorter working week being just one of them,” Will Stronge, the director of Autonomy, said. “This paper and the other nascent research in the field should give us plenty of food for thought when we consider how urgent a Green New Deal is and what it should look like.”

A reduction in working hours is just one way to address the current climate crisis and de-carbonize Europe’s economy.

“The rapid pace of labor-saving technology brings into focus the possibility of a shorter working week for all, if deployed properly,” Stronge said. “However, while automation shows that less work is technically possible, the urgent pressures on the environment and on our available carbon budget show that reducing the working week is in fact necessary.”

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The research highlights “the emissions produced per industry in each economy,” The Guardian reported, and shows the “link between working time and GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions.”

“Using OECD data and relating it to our carbon budget, Autonomy have taken the step to show what that link means in terms of our working weeks,” Mat Lawrence, director of Common Wealth, said.

“We welcome this attempt by Autonomy to grapple with the very real changes society will need to make in order to live within the limits of the planet,” Emma Williams, a spokeswoman for the 4 Day Week campaign, said.

Not only would a shorter work week help combat climate change, it will also lead to “improved well-being, enhanced gender equality and increased productivity,” Williams said.

The research is in line with growing support in the United States for a Green New Deal, which not only calls to de-carbonize the economy, but to add well-paid, sustainable jobs to the labor force.

“This new paper from Autonomy is a thought experiment that should give policymakers, activists and campaigners more ballast to make the case that a Green New Deal is absolutely necessary,” Lawrence said.

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