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The Shorter Workweek, The Higher Wages - The Reward

Updated on July 21, 2012

Right now working harder is required, but who benefits?

To the workers belong a share of their productivity
To the workers belong a share of their productivity | Source

The Facts:

Worker Productivity in 1980 actually compounded at an average rate of 1.97% per year through 2011.

Worker Non-farm Wages in 1980: approximated an average of $15.95/hour

Worker Non-farm Wages in 2000: approximated an average of $18.33/per hour

Minimum Wage in 1980: $3.10 (non-exempt positions covered by the federal laws)

Minimum Wage in 2012: $7.25 (Unchanged since July 2009 for nonexempt positions. Some states set higher minimum wages, and as of 1/1/2012 Washington State's was the highest at $9.04)

Population in 1980: 226,545,805

Population in 2012: 313,912,000

Illegal Immigrant Population in 2007: estimated as 12.5 million

Illegal Immigrant Population 2012: estimated as between 7 million and 20 million

The established Workweek in 1980: 40 hours (non-farm)

The established Workweek in 2012: 40 hours (non-farm)

How can we properly recognize increased worker productivity?

Here is a proposal which has already been debated and needs to be reconsidered:

Let's go to a four day workweek and maintain something like the five day workweek pay.

Let's recognize that the workers created the increased productivity which resulted in the increased profits which until now have gone primarily to owner and executive compensation.

If the average wage had compounded at the same percentage as the increase in worker productivity, the approximate average hourly wage today would be $29.20, while during those same 31 years workers have been asked to pay an increasing share of their medical insurance, have seen employer contributions to pensions reduced in many cases, and many have seen the loss of their jobs, savings, and homes.

The 40-hour workweek dates way back and was used not only to set a national standard for a week of work, but also to get more people employed when times were tough and jobs were scarce with the federal government as the employer of last resort (if you could even get a federal job!)

As workers have not been adequately rewarded for their increased productivity, let's make a reward that says "we recognize that you are accomplishing more in less time and that deserves to be rewarded."

If going to a 32-hour workweek (or at least some reduction in daily hours) means that some businesses will need to hire extra workers to fill the gaps, that is just what today's economy needs to be doing. Business can play its part by arranging shifts to accommodate the new hours and new employees at all skill levels. Workers will have more family and personal time as a reward for their efficiencies, and even work more effectively on the days they do work. Tax revenues will increase, the costs of public support will reduce, and national pride can be restored.

Isn't this how "The Trickle Down Theory" can actually work to benefit the lives of America's workers who produce the goods, services, and exports we need in order to get America moving again in leading the world to greater prosperity for all?

What would you do with some extra personal and family time each week?

Rather than keeping a five-day workweek, I urge going to the four-day workweek of 32 hours, so the gap needs to be filled by those currently unemployed American workers, rather than someone in management simply demanding: "Now you need to work even harder when you are at work!"


© 2012 Demas W. Jasper All rights reserved.


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    • Kate Mc Bride profile image

      Kate McBride 5 years ago from Donegal Ireland

      Those were the days but now they are gone. The union amalgamated with a bigger one so I left it.Now,they have to bargain for no more pay cuts by giving in to cuts in holidays.The "custom and practice" ethic is just a memory now.Cheers for the encouragement anyway:-). You have a good point about gaining credibility again but that butters no bread and the economy is in a sorry state.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 5 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      Unions could press for it, and even if they fail (as is likely) they regain some of their lost credibility. Unions could also lead the "demand for jobs" by demonstrating and encouraging anyone who needs a job, or knows someone who needs a job, to join ranks with their demonstration. Go for it Irish Colleen!

    • Kate Mc Bride profile image

      Kate McBride 5 years ago from Donegal Ireland

      The recession is very real in America too by the sounds of things. This hub appeals to me because of my trade union days at work-we had an ethic of maintaining "custom and practice".Now our income is reduced(a lot) by taxes, there are a lot of new taxes and our holidays are cut.There is such a ruthlessness about how it's done-the Government officials have the upper hand now and are abusing their power. This hub was easy to read on a challenging topic.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 5 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      My statistics on worker productivity were obtained from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on the same day I published this article. There are, of course, many adjustments to existing statutes (local, state, and federal) which would have to follow such a decision. That was true also when the 40-hour week was established originally for all federal employees, and that would be the logical path (a change in the federal workweek) to a 32-hour workweek now. More cogent arguments for a shorter workweek are contained concisely in a Wikipedia article "Working Time" specifically in the third paragraph of that articles "History" section, and contains very good reasons I did not present. You might want to check it out.

    • StegToDiffer profile image

      Spunk Nellie 5 years ago from New York, NY

      I admire the logical and orderly manner in which you laid out your ideas and proposals, but I happen to disagree with you about shortening the workweek to 32 hours. It is actually disadvantageous to those who work part-time. Because employers now must offer healthcare to any employee working more than 32 hours a week, these employees cannot attain any more than 32 hours, as the employer cannot afford healthcare for all of their workers. As a part-time employee, I would much prefer that my employer allowed me to work more than 32 hours and supply me with no healthcare than not be allowed to make more in wages. I would also like to know exactly how 'worker productivity' is quantified. What do you think?

    • EuroNinila profile image

      Fotinoula Gypsyy 5 years ago from NYC BABY

      I love your idea, but I feel that owners and executives wouldn't want to do this because it'll probably break their wallet in the end. Not speaking about all owners and executives, but I feel most could care less about their employees and the time they spend with family. They don't care about their employees' humanity, and it's sad that they are the ones walking away with a ton of money that other people are making for them. But I guess that's how the cookie crumbles. Great hub, I like the way you think!

    • NateB11 profile image

      Nathan Bernardo 5 years ago from California, United States of America

      The other good point that you make that I've also often considered is that more time ought to be freed up for people to do other things other than work. Our lives are narrowed down by spending so much time at work, and our lives are much more, a human is much more, than just work and keeping someone's business going and making money. In other words, more time outside of work would bring us closer to making our lives whole.

    • NateB11 profile image

      Nathan Bernardo 5 years ago from California, United States of America

      I absolutely like your idea, and I've thought about it myself often; that we should be working less hours and be paid better. I know I've given more work than I've gotten money, and this is true of all workers. I just don't think it's natural to force yourself to work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for substandard or subsistence or less than subsistence wages. Workers are the ones making the world go round, keeping things going for the execs and the bosses and, as you point out, what we're getting paid is not equal to what we're producing, it's less. Cheers to you, good points you make and you articulate them well with good facts.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 5 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      It could be added that "purchasing power" should be a factor in a fair average wage. What is the actual value of $1 these days compared to 1980?!