15 Indus. & Lab. Rel. Rev. 307 (1961-1962)
Shorter Hours - In Theory and Practice

handle is hein.journals/ialrr15 and id is 305 raw text is: SHORTER HOURS-IN THEORY AND PRACTICE

T HIS article examines a number of
theoretical and applied issues con-
cerning the length of the workday and
workweek. Specifically, three distinct, but
interrelated,  objectives  toward   which
'hour policy' might be directed are dis-
cussed; namely, the maximization of the
physical output of industry, the maximiza-
tion of worker satisfactions, and the maxi-
mization of employer profits. An exami-
nation of these three objectives will direct
our attention to some of the most impor-
tant aspects of the problem of shorter
hours, a problem which in recent years-
and largely as a result of automation-
has aroused widespread interest.'
The   relationship  between   hours of
Buttressed by a resolution of the AFL-CIO,
at its recent annual convention in December
1961, an increasing number of unions are like-
ly in the near future to press hard for a re-
duction in hours. Indeed, this issue has already
appeared in negotiations-for example, in the
New   York City local transit and building
trades industries-and is likely to be among
the major demands of the union in the forth-
coming bargaining in basic steel. In principle
at least, bargaining over this issue is compli-
cated by the absence of a common standard for
measuring the effects of changes in the length
of the workweek. As the discussion in this ar-
ticle brings out, there are at least three con-
ceptually different measures of the 'optimal'
workweek, depending on whether the frame of
reference is the employer, the individual work-
er, or the economy as a whole. The author
also discusses a rule by which a choice might
be made among the different hours optima.
This is the author's first appearance in this
journal. For some time, he has been engaged
in a study of the economic and historical as-
pects of shorter hours and increased leisure.
Clyde E. Dankert is professor of economics,
Dartmouth College.-EDITOR

work and the physical output of indus-
try is of great significance at all times,
but the policy aspects may vary with cir-
cumstances. During periods of war, par-
ticularly if the wars are major conflicts,
the paramount aim of national economic
policy should be to increase the produc-
tion of the implements of war and of
such non-war goods as have a favorable
bearing on the war effort. During such
periods, therefore, a very practical ques-
tion to ask is: What length of the work-
week   (or workday) will result in the
largest  possible  production?  Barring
crises, however, we may ask, in the termi-
nology of J. R. Hicks,2 the more general
question: What is the 'output optimum'
length of the work period?
Before proceeding to a detailed analysis
of the output optimum concept, it would
be well to illustrate its general nature.
This is done in Figure 1. The figure, it
will be noted, has two curves, one relating
to output per hour and the other to total
output per week (the length of the work
period we are here presupposing). The
output optimum length of the workweek
is found where the latter output is at a
maximum. Thus, in our hypothetical illus-
tration, the optimum is OB hours.
In a general way, Figure 1 shows what
happens to both of the output quantities
just mentioned as hours are altered. For
'No small amount of this interest has cen-
tered on shorter hours as a means for coping
with technological and other types of structural
unemployment, an aspect which will not be dis-
cussed at any length here, however.
'Hicks, The Theory of Wages (London:
Macmillan and Co., 1932), pp. 105-106.

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