California congressman proposes a four-day workweek

Stephanie Leguichard

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Photo of Mark Takano at Legislative ConferenceWikimedia Commons

In the industrialized world, the US is known for having one of the most intense work cultures. Americans work substantially more hours per week than most Europeans do, for instance, and our culture imposes a stringent work ethic that leaves many Americans exhausted day to day.

California Congressman Mark Takano is striving to change that. He recently introduced a bill titled "The 32-Hour Workweek Act" in Congress.

He said the following about the rationale behind the bill:

As Americans have become more productive, their incomes really haven’t moved. What collective choice do we want to make about how we work?

The bill would reduce the standard workweek from the current 40 hours (which many Americans exceed) to 32 hours. It would mandate that employers pay their workers overtime once they've surpassed the 32-hour quota. In other words, workers would be paid the same salary for 32 hours that they were previously paid for 40 works.

Critics contend that this would burden employers with higher labor costs. However, some research has found that workers in most professions can complete the same amount of work in 32 hours that they currently execute in 40 hours. This is partly because shortening the workweek can boost morale, thereby bolstering efficiency and reducing idle time in the workplace.

Takano argues that the notion of a 32-hour workweek might especially appeal to people in the wake of the pandemic, as lockdowns and transitions to remote work have exposed some of the inefficiencies and absurdities of conventional work culture.

This advocacy is far from unprecedented. Activists have been demanding workweek reductions since the early 20th century, and various countries have already implemented measures to circumscribe employers' latitude to demand lengthy workweeks from their employees. For instance, such measures have recently been attempted in Spain and New Zealand, to immense success.

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Writer, editor, and leftist activist with writing in The Correspondent, Wear Your Voice, Adios Barbie, etc. Endlessly fascinated by the complexities of human minds and cultures. Currently completing my MA in Anthropology.

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