Working Our Way to a 15-Hour Work Week

We’re all familiar with the idea of escaping the rat race; that endless, self-defeating pursuit. You work more hours, to buy more stuff, to bring you greater joy … . But of course, because you’re working more hours, you don’t have time to enjoy the stuff that more money made available.

The key, of course, is to find the right balance. Work just enough hours to make enough money to enjoy the people and activities that are important to you. Of course part of that calculation considers the period beyond your working years. Ideally you will be able to save enough money to retire at a reasonable age and be able to live your chosen lifestyle.


I believe it’s safe to say that most of us would rather be spending more time with our loved ones than making money. Famed British economist John Maynard Keynes certainly believed so. Back in 1930, he predicted that the working week would be drastically cut, to perhaps 15 hours a week, with people choosing to have far more leisure as their material needs were satisfied. Keynes predicted that living standards in “progressive countries” such as the United States and Britain would be between four and eight times higher and the greater, more efficient productivity (robots? technology?) would leave people far more time to enjoy the good things in life.

Of course, despite the fact that many progressive countries are five times richer than they were a century ago, we are working longer hours than ever before. If we weaned ourselves off the need to be hyper-consumers, focused more intensely on the things that were truly important, better leveraged the technologies that have made our work lives more efficient, and implemented a universal basic income, could we get away with a 15-hour work week?

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