Friday, May 14, 2010

Juliet Schor on Employment and Environment

Juliet Schor has an excellent article in The Nation, based on her new book Plenitude, making a point that should be obvious but that is usually ignored: The only way we can reduce unemployment and preserve the environment is by shortening work hours.

Here are a few quotations from the article:

"... a return to business as usual - 'jobs and income will trickle down via growth' - is a disaster, on economic and ecological grounds."

"First, it won't work. The Economic Policy Institute calculates that we'd have to add half a million jobs each month for three years to get back to the pre-crash unemployment rate ... an order of magnitude larger than what we can realistically expect."

"The other flaw in the 'grow our way out of unemployment' approach is that it's ecological suicide. ... We must reduce atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide to 350 parts per million as quickly as possible .... It's nearly impossible to meet emission targets only by reducing the carbon intensity of each dollar spent. But we can get results immediately by changing the path of aggregate output. As American GDP fell in 2008, so did greenhouse gas emissions."

"Progressive economists have mostly responded to the economic crisis with retro-policy, advocating financial reform and spending on infrastructure, including on green jobs, [which] still relies on climate-destabilizing growth."

"The alternative is to transform the labor market by introducing downward flexibility in hours of work. If jobs are restructured to require fewer hours, employers will have to hire more people for a given level of sales. If work time were allocated more equitably, it would not only reduce unemployment; there would be wider benefits to all workers, their families and communities."

"Nations with lower hours of work have smaller ecological footprints, after controlling for income and other variables."

read the entire article at