Home » Quick guides » Economics In One Lesson » VIII/ Spread-the-Work Schemes

The false belief that there is a fixed amount of work to be done engenders ‘spread–the–work’ programmes, such as rigid insistence on an artifically-fine division of labour. Labour does not benefit from them: increasing costs incurred by artificially increasing employment will decrease the disposable income available to spend in other sectors of the economy. The consumer is thus also disadvantaged by these practices.

Another method of spreading the work is shortening the working week and forcing employers to pay a premium to any worker who works over the stated threshold of hours. Although this can increase employment, the total number of hours worked for the entire workforce remains the same. Existing workers subsidise new workers and will consume more leisure at a cost of lower total pay. Attempts to raise the hourly wage to maintain total pay in a short work week will lead to redundancies and higher prices for the consumer.

Any attempt to accommodate these price increases by increasing the money supply will only lead to a fall in real wages.

The amount of work to be done in an economy is only bounded by those human needs and wishes which work can satisfy.  In a modern exchange economy, the most work will be done when prices, costs and wages are in the best relations with each other.

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