Intelligent Systems And Their Societies Walter Fritz



Unemployment - Causes and Solutions


Unemployment levels are increasing dramatically in many parts of the world. Why is this, and can it be avoided? The permanently unemployed have no income, and many choose the alternative of income by crime. Would you rather live in a country with no unemployment? Here is a sure way to eliminate unemployment!!

Unemployment is an unbalance between the supply and the demand of working hours.

We all know that the efficiency of all types of machines is increasing yearly. We need fewer people to produce the same goods. Work time has been reduced in the past 200 years from about 12 hours a day to less than 8 hours per day and the working week from 7 days to 5.

Historic working hours

1802 - In the English textile industry, they try to reduce
           the working hours of apprentices to 12 hours.

1847 - The legal workday in England is 10 hours.

1848 - In Germany, work time is reduced to 12 hrs. as
           against the previous 14 to 16 hours per day.

1890 - In the USA, the AFL wants an 8 hour day.

1891 - In Germany, the new working hours for female
           factory workers is 11 hours per day.

The main reason for the high level of unemployment is technological progress. Don't get me wrong; progress is good and it makes life easier. But if every year we produce the same amount of goods with fewer people -- in a few years far less working hours are needed to produce all the goods that are required. The historical trend has been to use less and less working hours per week. If we do not continue this trend, the supply of working hours is greater than the demand. We also know that what is abundant has low value, so an oversupply of working hours means they are worth less, wages and salaries get reduced. Also many persons are out of work; their working hours are no longer needed. Those that are out of work have no income and therefore the demand for goods goes down. With fewer sales, less gets produced, more persons are laid off. This is a vicious circle that accelerates unemployment and produces crime; because some will turn to crime to obtain income.
The way to stop this and have everybody working, is to continue the historical trend; is to distribute the available work between all persons that want to work. This we can do if each person works fewer hours per week. If there is, say, 9% unemployment, this level should be 9% less hours per week, than what is worked at present.
Also, the Government could level a tax on overtime, be it paid or voluntary, and on hours worked above a certain level per week.

Would the enterprises agree to this? By paying no overtime, the labor costs are lower. By having an increased demand for goods, sales and production would be higher. By working many shifts per day, seven days a week, the machines would work always and investment would be lower. Certainly costs would be lower and profits higher.

Would the people agree to this? Working night hours and weekend hours is not pleasant. But by working fewer hours per week, more hours are available to be with the family, for entertainment, sports and hobbies. Wages and salaries would be higher since there would be no oversupply of working hours. In summary, finally everybody could reap the benefits of technological progress and have more free time.

Some say that by increasing exports we can generate a greater need for working hours. If increased exports are balanced by increased imports, nothing is gained. Hours gained by exports are lost by imports that replace local products.
If exports are not balanced, a local oversupply of foreign currency results, changing the currency relations in the long run, which in turn balances the value of exports with imports.
Some say, create more jobs by creating new products. But people can only buy new products if they have money, and to have more money there must be low unemployment and high salaries.
So you see, these "solutions" do not help in the long run.

For a good idea about how to live slower and better see: The Slow Movement (Exterior link).

The way to reduce unemployment and to live better is to distribute the available work by working fewer hours per week.

If you agree and live in a country with high unemployment, tell your friends of this solution and write to your newspaper, your magazine and your congressman. In this way everybody will live better.
The author appreciates comments and suggestions.


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Last Edited 7 March 2013 / Walter Fritz
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