Will a Shorter Work Week Lead to More Productivity

Abstract America has been a front runner in the labor market for so many years. Unfortunately that is not the case in most recent years. America’s labor market has been downsizing while on the contrary, other countries labor market has been increasing. One economy that has been thriving is in the country of Japan. Since their destruction after the war, Japan has rebuilt their labor market into one of the top labor fields around the world. Unlike any other country, the Japanese utilize part time workers as their driving force.

By using part time workers the Japanese are able to keep labor hours down, which decrease the cost of the good, which in essence allows for goods to be more affordable. Cheaper goods allow for more goods to be wanted and more money into the economy. Although Japan has capitalized on a shorter work week to lead to more production, the United States has failed to take on this view. Many studies support this view, but the United States is reluctant to change their ways. Introduction Have you ever felt as if there were not enough hours in a day? This is a feeling I am sure everyone has had at one time or another.

Sadly, Americans seem to deal with this problem more than other countries. With Americans usually working what they consider a normal work day, being nine to five o’clock, they often find themselves overextending themselves to include overtime hours. According to Richard Pyle, Americans work an average of 35. 6 million overtime hours a week (Pyle, 1977). That is an astounding amount of time focused on just work. No wonder why there is not enough time in our day to get things done! Americans are too busy working to do anything else. Now what if I were to say that all of these extra hours are unneeded?

Instead of spending all of the day at work you could be doing other leisurely things you enjoy instead such as vacation or quality family time. There are a plethora of studies and research done to show that having a shorter work week could lead to more production in the United States. According to the article “The Japanese Worker-What Makes Him Tick”, the Japanese has lower amounts of labor hours and a higher amount of quality items being sold around the world (Whitehill, 1961). After many articles published stating the same thing, economists decided to explore this phenomenon a little further.

The economists created a group called the National Recovery Administration or NRA, to carry out their own study to see if this phenomenon could actually hold true. A Typical American Workday In the United States today people who usually work for a living have a fulltime job. A full time job entails a person to work forty hours or more a week. Previously stated in the article, Performance Measures for a Corporate Fitness Program, Americans work an average of 35. 6 million overtime hours a week (Pyle, 1977). Overtime is defined as “working time in excess of a standard day, week, or period” (Miriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, 2007).

The 35. 6 million hours a week could translate into another 900,000 forty-hour per week jobs (Pyle, 1977). Instead of hiring more employees and helping out our economy, the United States would rather make the currently employed work a ridiculous amount of time. Employed Americans often find themselves stressed with their companies desire for overtime work that they compromise leisurely activities to essentially keep their job. Japanese View of Labor Japan’s History of Employment Before World War II, “Japan was once one of the lowest economically driven countries in the world. ” (Mincer, 1988).

After the war was over Japan was in complete turmoil (Hitchner, 1986). Employment in Japan was scarce. According to the article a majority of their land was bombed, which left for almost no resources to be allocated towards profit (Hitchner, 1986). After Japan started rebuilding they decided to change the structure of their labor program. The years the Japanese spent rebuilding Japan back was considered the Lost Decade and they were to regain their economic standing among the World (Hitchner, 1986). Japan started looking at different labor models to see which was more beneficial.

They noticed that there were an enormous amount of unemployed individuals all looking for work. They did not know how to allocate this many jobs to so many people. Japan did notice that with the Industrial shift there was an increase in part time work in contrast to full-time work (Gatson, 2007). Japan capitalized their labor market to utilize more part time employees rather than full time employees (Gatson, 2007). The need for flexibility went extremely well with part time workers since they do not work long hours (Houseman and Osawa, 1995). They are able to work at different times when needed.

Having part time workers seemed to work really well for this time period in Japan. They noticed that there needed to be flexibility in time worked, while rebuilding the country. Rather than zoning on a limited population of workers that would create extremes in population classes, utilizing all populations allowed for the Japanese to create equal opportunity for survival after the war. This idea of benefiting all was not going to happen overnight. “Although Japan’s job market stagnated for some time, there was an increase in part time employees receiving funds to support their family. (MHLW, 2003). Recent Years of Labor Market Japan has continued to use the same type of labor market that led them to one of the highest economically driven eras. Now other countries are trying to find out exactly what Japan does to have a decrease in labor hours, but an increase in production (Gatson, 2007). In actuality Japan’s labor market is simple to explain. They took the simple textbook economic theory and used it in their culture, which increased their labor market (Roos, 1935). The theory states “that decreased cost leads to decreased price and hence to increased consumption’ (Roos, 1935).

This simply means that the less it costs to make the product, the cheaper it is, and the easier it is to purchase. Since Japan utilizes part time workers, they do not have to pay so much for the labor. Now that labor is cheaper, the cost of the product is cheaper. “Japan has part time workers who cannot only afford the products their country makes, but has the time to enjoy them as well,” thus creating the opportunity for enjoying leisurely activities. (Roos, 1935). There is also an added bonus for making things at a cheaper price.

The whole world would like to buy these products since they are cheaper, which causes an influx of revenue to the country (Hitchner, 1986). Instead of Japan making workers work later hours to produce more products they utilize more part time employees to keep the cost down. Another added feature is that it also helps keep the unemployment rate down for the country (Gatson, 2007). You get more people working and more people being able to afford to purchase these items. All of these different ways bring revenue to the country, which will have the country rise in the economic standings. The Japanese Worker

There are some differences in which the other countries need to understand in this great labor driven market. The high quality products that pour out from Japan do come at a price for the employers (Whitehill, 1961). The employers have a different type of relationship when compared to the United States way of thinking. The Japanese worker has a greater amount of security than say workers in the United States (Whitehill, 1961). Every worker knows exactly what is expected of him/or her. They know their job details, worker’s creed, and their responsibilities as an employee of a certain company.

The employees strive to maintain great outcomes of their products. They do not make as much as full time employees of the United States, but they do get other things, which is okay for them. The employees receive some good alternatives for being such great employees for so little. “For example, if a worker is unable to do good work, management should keep them on the payroll until they retire if in a certain amount of time or until they find another job” (Whitehill, 1961). Also, if the company has to downsize it is the employer’s responsibility to find them another job somewhere in the company or at another company (Whitehill, 1961).

Benefits also go towards the family of the employed. Since workers are part time and do not always get health benefits, families are covered in case of an incident. If an employee becomes ill or injured the employer should continue to pay him or at least hold his job until s/he returns (Whitehill, 1961). Turnover Rates in the Labor Market Japanese Turnover Rate Japan’s utilization of part time workers seems to work extremely well for their country. Even though Japan does not pay as much as the United States, they have a better turnover rate (Mincer, 1988).

The Japanese worker seems to be okay with not making as much, but having more security for their job. I feel the culture has a lot to do with the turnover rate. The Japanese culture is a lot different from the American culture. They are a more collectivistic culture in which they come together as a community to help get stronger. They take care of their family and friends and work together to get better, whereas Americans are an individualistic culture. The collectivistic culture is even seen in the workforce. Japanese employers seem to care about their employees and want to see them be able to provide food and shelter for their families.

Even though there are not as many rich people in Japan as the United States, many of them are happy all the same. American Turnover Rate Subsequently in America, we are an individualistic culture. We have the mentality of stepping over people to get what we want in the job market. Unlike Japan, there is no security in the job market today (Mincer, 1988). This is an extremely frightening situation for Americans to be in. Instead of caring for their family and friends Americans only seem to care about themselves. Employers seem to care only about their own profits and less for their employees.

If cutting thousands of people will save them more money then so be it. They do not look after them to get a new job or help their families out when they can no longer work. Today in America you see the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Since Americans are not secured in the market and do not know what tomorrow brings the turnover rate seems to be higher than that of Japan (Mincer, 1988). The N. R. A. Study Economists noticed all of these changes and wanted to see if Japan’s labor theory would work in the United States (Roos, 1935).

They took into consideration most of the outside factors, but could not account for all of them. The time set took place during 1920-1933, when the United States was going through the Great Depression ( Jennings, 1998). Since our economy was falling, the government needed ideas to help bring the labor market back up to get revenue. Some economists viewed the Japanese labor theory as ideal (Roos, 1935). Although they could not change our culture’s way of thinking they could cut down the hours needed to make certain items (Roos, 1935). The economists worked on the “blue prints” of how the study would be acted out.

In the 1930’s the study finally took shape and was conducted. The researchers noticed all of the manpower needed to perform various types of jobs. They came up with the idea to have machines do all of the hard work, which would in return cut down hours. Once the jobs were taken over by machines employees had to find other jobs. Construction and other manual labor jobs were almost always available during the1920’s, but not in the 1930’s. With machines taking place of most manual labor, the time usually spent for manual labor was cut almost in half.

As we seen previously, once labor is decreased, the cost is decreased, and the price is more affordable (Roos, 1935). This would be good for the economy if the employees had another job to go to and make revenue. Since there were so many new hotels and restaurants built during that time, there were not as many people needing to build anything else (Roos, 1935). The researcher’s realized the economy was still under and needed help to get out. The researchers stated that by making the builders and trade services work shorter work weeks, which lead to fewer hours then there would be more money going into the economy (Roos, 1935).

Even though they were not fill time jobs they were still jobs that allowed the employees to bring home a paycheck. Instead of people relying solely on the government to help them in this time of need, they were able to actually put money back into the economy. Once there is more money coming into the country there would be a better chance of having more jobs opening up (Roos, 1935). After watching the economy fall and start to rebuild itself once again, the researchers realized that a shorter workweek would be better for the economy (Roos, 1935).

Although this study showed many advantages to having a shorter workweek, the businesses did not pick up this new way of thinking and kept to their own views and ideas. Discussion I was always told that going through school will guarantee you a spot in the job market. Unfortunately, with the economy in shambles no one is guaranteed anything. Since the market has continued to plummet I feel that the United States should try something different about the labor market. Creating a common ground for all population classes would be ideal rather than always following the motto of “having the rich get richer and the poor get poorer”.

Going through school with loans definitely puts me in the poorer section so I do not want the economy to stay in the direction it is now. Japan has made an incredible leap in the labor market and continues to thrive. I feel we could take a lesson from the Japanese and have our economy be more in the middle and allow it to be better overall. There may not be as many rich people, but at least there will be more people working, which in return allows for a better economy overall. Hopefully, the prices would decrease since the price of making the good would also decrease.

It would not matter if you do not make an enormous amount of money if goods are affordable. At the same time if you do not work as many hours then you will also be able to spend time on leisurely things. Even doing leisurely things brings more revenue to the economy. Conclusion There was once a time when Americans were the strong hold of the growing economy (Kovach, 1979). It was not until recent years when other countries started to surpass the “All Mighty” United States. One of the countries to surpass the labor market of the United States was and still is Japan (Mincer, 1988).

Japan has come from nothing after the war and rebuilt itself up to the one of the top labor markets in the world. The utilization of part time workers seemed to work extremely well for their economy. Having part time workers allowed for their country to have more employees at one time. By having more employees allowed for the economy to start building itself back up. Another major advantage to having part time workers is that it keeps the cost of goods down. When you have a decrease in the amount of labor, the cost of the good also decreases.

Once the labor and cost decreases then the prices of the final good will also decrease. Keeping goods affordable was important in the continuity of the economy. Since everything was cheaper, other countries utilized them for products, which in return raised their economic standings that much more. America on the other hand has been decreasing in the labor market in recent years. Instead of trying different labor theories, the United States is sticking to what they have been use to for so many years. Even with studies showing how a shorter work week would increase production for the United States,

Americans are not willing to change their way of thinking. Until things change, Japan and their revolutionary way of thinking in the labor market will continue to strive. References 1. Gatson, Noel. Kishi, Tomoko. Journal of Japanese and International Economies: Part time Workers doing Full Time Work in Japan. (2007). Vol. 21. Iss. 4. pp. 435-454 2. Hitchner, Earl. National Productivity Review: A Wake-Up Call for Quality. (1986). Pp. 265-270 3. Houseman and Osawa. 1995 S. Houseman and M. Osawa, Part Time and Temporary Employment in Japan, Monthly Lab. Rev.

October 0 (1995), pp. 10-18 4. Jennings, Peter. Brewster, Todd. The Century. (1998). Doubleday Publishing. New York, New York. 146-154 5. Jr. Whitehill, Arthur M. The International Executive: The Japanese Worker-What Makes Him Tick? (1961). Pp. 19-20 6. Kishi, 2003 T. Kishi, Structural Changes in the Japanese Labor Market in the 1990s, Maruzen, Nagoya (2003). 7. Kovach, Kenneth A. Human Resources Management: Is It Time to Amend The Overtime Provisions Of The Fair Labor Standards Act? (1979). pp. 23-25 8. MHLW, 2003 Ministry of Health, Labor, Welfare (MHLW).

Chingin Kozo Kihon Tokei Chosa Heisei 14 Neiban, Basic Statistical Survey on Wages 2002, MHLW, Tokyo (2003) 9. Mincer, Jacob. Higuchi, Yoshio. Journal of Japanese and International Economies: Wage Structures and Labor Turnover in the United States and Japan. (1988). Vol. 2, Iss. 2, pp. 97-133 10. Pyle, Richard L. Performance Measures for a Corporate Fitness Program. (1975). Pg. 9 11. Rifkin, Jeremy. The end of Work in Europe. (2007). Pp. 26-29 12. Roos, Charles F. Economerica: Economic Theory of the Shorter Work Week. (1935). Pp. 69-110

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