Working less by choice: what are the benefits and hardships?
Journal article, 2022

Working time reduction (WTR) is a policy that could improve quality of life while reducing environmental impacts. However, WTR coupled with a salary reduction may benefit only higher-income earners and increase social inequalities. Against this background, we analyze how the motivations for and the socioecological outcomes from working less vary across different socioeconomic groups. The analysis is based on a survey conducted among municipal employees under full-time contracts who utilized the City of Gothenburg’s “right to part-time” policy. We find that working less improved quality of life not only for higher-income groups but also for lower-income groups through gains in time affluence, energy, health, and time spent on strengthening social ties. However, three negative effects emerged. First, WTR lead to increased work intensification, particularly among higher-income earners. Second, concerns regarding making ends meet and future retirement income were particularly salient issues among lower-income earners. Finally, WTR to cope with unfavorable working conditions was a much more common motivation among manual workers with lower salaries. We conclude that WTR can be a viable option across a broader range of socioeconomic groups than previously assumed but that it is nevertheless important to consider the effects on social inequality when designing WTR policies.

environmental impact

Working time reduction

social equality

quality of life

policy

Author

Ola Persson

Royal Institute of Technology (KTH)

Jörgen Larsson

Chalmers, Space, Earth and Environment, Physical Resource Theory

Jonas Nässén

Chalmers, Space, Earth and Environment, Physical Resource Theory

Sustainability: Science, Practice, and Policy

1548-7733 (ISSN)

Vol. 18 1 81-96

Subject Categories

Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

Economics

Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified

DOI

10.1080/15487733.2021.2023292

More information

Latest update

2/9/2022 8