Financial TimesFinancial Times

A four-day work week would help save the planet

By Simon Kuper

28 Oct 2021 · 3 min read

The problem with asking people to change their lives to slow climate change is it’s a terrible offer. You’re essentially saying: stop flying and driving and buying clothes, coffee, holidays etc, and in return the planet might be a bit less uninhabitable a century from now. No wonder this hasn’t gone down well. Nobody likes a hair shirt. The moment voters’ lives are at all inconvenienced — as they are now with rising energy prices — governments ditch climate activism and scramble to let us keep heating the planet.

Politicians are sticking to their traditional promise: annual rises in gross domestic product that let people buy more stuff. But that can’t be the offer any more. Making and consuming stuff heats the planet. Instead of more stuff, governments need to offer people more time. Specifically, in developed countries where people have enough to live on, we should cut working hours to save the planet. A four-day week would be a good start.

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