Writing in Yes! Magazine, Juliet Schor outlines a different model for employment – working sharing. This idea is catching on in the U.S., and it was one of the main reasons Germany kept a low unemployment during its recession. The concept is simple. Companies shorten the work week for some workers, hire new employees to work those hours. Government steps in and subsidizes the lost hours, so no employee loses income. This is an alternative to traditional unemployment.
Germany was not the only company to follow this model. Korea, Norway, the Slovak Republic, Japan, Belgium, Italy, and Finland used some version of shared work. 17 states in the U.S. gave employed workers unemployment benefits when their hours were cut.
Schor, a professor of Sociology at Boston College, thinks shared work could take a bad situation and turn it into an opportunity. Employees will be less stressed and have a better work life balance. There will also be ecological benefits because people will spend less and enjoy life more.
I really like this kind of thinking, which is common throughout Yes! However, I doubt that many American companies or citizens would buy the model. Recently some politicians were labeling unemployment benefits as “welfare.” We live in an era when screechy political and media voices can turn simple government programs into “Socialism.” What would they do with a common sense proposal like work share? This great idea is too radical for Tea Party Nation. It will be dismissed as “French.”