Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Abolishing the Weekends

I'm an economics major myself. Many economists believe that by abolishing weekends (i.e. laws that force people to stop working over the weekends), the economy will improve. You don't need a PhD in economics I know this will work because more time on the weekend will free up time to work more. More work means better economy. In It's Not Rational to be Rational, Ross Gittens has a go at the economics fraternity and makes the following argument against abolishing weekends:
There's no doubt that a most effective way of raising the productivity of our factories, offices and shops is to keep them working as close as possible to 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

To that end we've deregulated shopping hours and made great strides in getting rid of weekend penalty rates. But the more of us who're required to work at weekends, the more the weekend ceases to be the weekend.

Parents will have trouble getting together with their kids on any day of the week and it will be hard for friends or relatives to get together, even after work, because there'll be no common after work.

Hands up anyone who thinks that's a good idea. It's a social end we're in the process of sacrificing to advance narrowly economic means. It's happening because rationalists don't bother their heads with non-rational ends like togetherness.
Suppose there were no weekend leisure time. Now suppose you and your friend worked seven days a week. You can still meet your friend simply by ringing him up and asking him whether he is free at a particular time when both of you are free. This is exactly the same thing most of us already do if we want to schedule an appointment with an accountant or a dentist or a physician. Gittens seems to be suggesting that certain days be days when we meet friends. He says that by getting rid of weekends the convenience of relying on weekends as days when we meet friends is gone. Well, if we are going to create convenience for people to meet to do certain things, then why stop at the meeting of friends and also extend this concept to the meeting of dentists and patients? Suppose the Government designated Monday as a day off and declared Monday to be "Dentist's Day." This day is designed to allow people to meet their dentists to have their teeth fixed. If they don't have dentists, they can just laze around watching TV all day similarly to how people with no friends don't meet friends on the weekend and probably watch TV on the weekend as well. If anyone argues that Dentist's Day be banned then Gittens can use the same argument he did before. He can say that banning Dentist's Day will make it hard for people to arrange time with their dentists. Yes, he's right, but not everyone wants to go to the dentist once every week and those who don't just laze about doing nothing when they want to work. By liberalizing, people get more choice. Anyway, why stop at Dentist's Day? Why not have Accountant's Day or any other day? Before long nobody will be working.

Some people make the argument the making people work on weekends does not help the economy because the extra work people do will wear them out and make them less productive. Suppose this were true. Suppose I normally worked from Monday to Friday as a car salesman. Suppose on a five-day week I sell 10 cars. Now suppose new laws come in and the boss asks me to work Saturdays and Sundays as well, so now I work seven days a week. Because I had less leisure, my productivity decreases and suppose I sell only 5 cars per week now. If this were to happen, the boss would suspect that my not resting is causing the problem and tell me to rest. You see, the employer wants to maximize his profits too, and he does so by asking you to work what he thinks is the optimal hours, which takes into account the leisure-work ratio.

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