Reducing Workweeks

Reducing Workweeks

Fred Best
Foreword by Herbert J. Gans
Copyright Date: 1988
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 228
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  • Book Info
    Reducing Workweeks
    Book Description:

    International competition and variable economic conditions have brought the threat of layoffs to the doorsteps of workers and managers in all sectors of our economy. One response to this problem is Unemployment Insurance-Supported Work Sharing. This new and promising program reduces the human and economic costs of layoffs by providing partial unemployment benefits to employees who have their workweeks reduced as an alternative to layoffs. Fred Best provides a balanced and thorough assessment of this policy in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

    Unemployment Insurance-Supported Work Sharing maintains the income and fringe benefits of all workers at near full-time levels, enabling firms to maintain the skills and working relations of their employees and preventing undue hardships among those who would otherwise lose their jobs.

    Best summarizes the history and effectiveness of these programs in terms of their economic and human impacts on employers, employees, government, and the economy. He presents key insights on how worktime and worker management cooperation can become powerful tools for combating joblessness and increasing economic performance. This definitive account of an important experiment in work hours will be of critical importance to managers, workers, policymakers, economists, and those concerned with employment issues.

    In the seriesLabor and Social Change, edited by Paula Rayman and Carmen Sirianni.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0675-0
    Subjects: Business, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xviii)
    (pp. xix-2)
    Herbert J. Gans

    When American labor unions began to fight for the eight-hour day shortly after the end of the Civil War, they did so in part to reduce unemployment. Realizing that shorter hours for all workers could save jobs and create additional ones, they were in effect inventing the policy now called work sharing. Since those days, the need for work sharing has been raised again during other periods of high unemployment, including the Great Depression. Work sharing was a motive in the federal enactment of the forty-hour week, and it was talked about during the 1960s, when the arrival of automation...

  5. CHAPTER ONE The History and Issues of Unemployment Insurance–Supported Work Sharing
    (pp. 3-45)

    During times of high unemployment, it is frequently suggested that work time should be reduced, to spread available jobs among a larger number of people. There are many distinct proposals for sharing work in this manner: government-mandated shortening of workweeks, sabbatical programs, early retirement, and schemes allowing individuals to voluntarily reduce their work time. The costs and benefits of these and other options vary tremendously.¹

    One of the most promising approaches for spreading jobs by reducing work time is unemployment insurance–supported work sharing. This approach, also called work-sharing unemployment insurance, short-time compensation, and other names, provides partial unemployment insurance...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Patterns of Participation and Decision to Participate
    (pp. 46-70)

    Many questions have been raised about UI-supported work sharing in North America, and the patterns of use that are likely to emerge. Common questions concern how much these programs are likely to be used as an alternative to layoffs, whether certain types of organizations and industrial sectors will be more likely to use such programs, and which conditions are likely to determine participation and nonparticipation.

    The first questions asked about UI-supported work-sharing programs deal with the growth of participation, characteristics of participants, and the nature of utilization.

    Growth of participation has been rapid in both the United States and Canada,...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Impacts on Employees and Unions
    (pp. 71-142)

    There are many dimensions to the impacts of UI-supported work-sharing systems on employees and unions. Available data provide us with an overview of these impacts. However, it is important to note that these impacts vary significantly with program design, specific employment conditions, and extent of use.

    Questions about economic impacts, both short and long run, come immediately to mind. What are the impacts on income levels, fringe benefits, and, above all, job security? Are financial impacts and security of employment distributed evenly or unevenly within organizations and work groups? Are certain types of workers helped or hurt more than others,...

  8. Chapter 4 Impacts on Organizations and Employers
    (pp. 143-199)

    The impact of UI-supported work sharing on firms is determined by a host of economic and social issues. Many of the same variables that affected workers also have important impacts on firms. In some cases, the impacts are mirror images. Gains and losses to workers from wages and fringe benefits frequently have inverse impacts on firms. However, in some cases, the nature of private fringe benefit packages, public payroll tax policies, and VI benefit levels can foster mutual gains or losses for both firms and employees. Finally, work sharing can have impacts on organizations that have no direct effects on...

  9. Chapter 5 Impacts on Unemployment Insurance, Government, and Society
    (pp. 200-248)

    The last lap in assessing unemployment insurance–supported work sharing entails an examination of impacts on the unemployment insurance system, various aspect of government, and society. What are the costs of using work sharing as compared to layoffs to the unemployment insurance system, and how do these relative costs vary? Who saves or pays extra for differences in the cost to the UI system? Does the use of UI-supported work sharing alter government expenditures for social programs and tax revenues received? What are the impacts of such work-sharing programs on society and the economy? Does their use as an alternative...

    (pp. 249-274)

    Available information indicates that UI-supported work-sharing programs are effective and efficient policies, likely to become common social policy fixtures in North America. While these programs have a number of shortcomings and are applicable only to a portion of the unemployment problem, the overall picture is that they present a number of notable benefits to participating firms and workers, and to society in general.

    Despite a wholesome measure of attention over the last few years, work-sharing programs remain a small speck on the horizon of emerging social policies in North America. At the peak of the severe 1982 recession, a period...

  11. Appendix: Description of Evaluation Data
    (pp. 275-280)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 281-300)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 301-309)