Long working hours are a major feature of unequal societies. This article, from Monthly Review, argues that if the US had adopted EU working hours, it could have reduced its carbon emissions by 2 percent by 2002, from 1990 levels – and given US workers 7 additional weeks of time off per year:

 

David Rosnick and Mark Weisbrot, “Are Shorter Work Hours Good for the Environment? A Comparison of U.S. and European Energy Consumption“. They say:

 

If Americans chose to take advantage of their high level of productivity by shortening the workweek or taking longer vacations rather than producing more, there would follow a number of benefits. Specifically, if the U.S. followed the EU-15 in terms of work hours, then: * Employed workers would find themselves with seven additional weeks of time off. * The United States would consume some 20 percent less energy. * If a 20 percent energy savings had been directly translated into lower carbon emissions, then the U.S. would have emitted 3 percent less carbon dioxide in 2002 than it did in 1990.

 

Also on this theme, try Hervé Kempf’s “How the Rich are Destroying the Earth” (Green Books, 2008). For hard data on the link between inequality and long working hours see Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s “The Spirit Level: why more equal societies almost always do better.”

Advertisements