Not enough jobs?
All over the world, people are loosing their jobs, being "downsized" or
"rationalized away", as their companies fight to stay competitive,
usually means producing more goods at even lower cost than before,
employing fewer people and still making enough money for the
or shareholders. The now jobless workers face severe problems, ranging
from feeling useless, all the way to starving, depending on what
for the jobless their countries have in place. At the same time, the
who still can keep their jobs, tend to work day and night, weekday and
weekend, like mad and crazy, because they believe that this is their
only chance to stay productive enough to be retained by the company!
For almost all the history homo sapiens has seen,
people had to
work, and work a lot, just in order to produce
enough goods so they
could eat, cloth themselves, and have some shelter. Often there was not
much in terms of a pension fund: If you stopped working, you would die,
because others won't be feeding you for very long. Old people starved,
sick people starved, and children who lost their parents also starved.
For those who could work, life consisted basically of just that: Work.
Little or no time was left for most people to cultivate arts,
social relationships, or simply relax.
With the beginning of industrialization, many philosophers
an end to this misery! Thick books were written, advertising
new society that would be formed by the machine era: With countless
of machines doing the repetitive, hard work, humans would finally be
free to pursue arts, science, creative work and leisure! Machines would
do so much of the work that people simply wouldn't need to work a lot.
They would just have to care to keep the machines in good condition,
and build new machines, do the little work machines cannot do, and the
rest of the time would be free! The economy would be re-organized, so
everyone would get what he needs without a need to work much, and
would contribute his knowledge to improve this society of leisurely
even more. It sounded like a dream come true.
Why hasn't this happened?
Well, it has happened in great part, but not completely enough! Paid
were the first evidence of this development. Never before in history
any person stop working for several days or even weeks every year,
still getting paid just as if he was working! Also, the working week
been shortened. Two-hundred years ago, people worked ten to twelve
a day, six days a week. Sometimes they could take saturday afternoons
or at least go home earlier and take their well-earned weekly bath!
people worked maybe 60 hours a week, in average. Nowadays instead most
of us work only five days per week, no more than eight hours per day,
some people adding some work on saturday mornings. Depending on the
the standard weekly worktime now varies from 32 to perhaps 50 hours.
reduction in worktime is a direct consequence of machines doing much of
the work! At the same time, our average income is much
it was 200 years ago, which is also a direct consequence of the
increasing so dramatically, thanks to machines.
But why isn't the reduction in worktime even larger?
I see basically two reasons. One is that homo sapiens
by nature. We want more, more, even more, all if
possible! So, instead
of working only five hours per week, and letting machines do the rest
the work necessary to give us food, clothing and shelter, we want more.
This is where homo ludens comes in!
Basically we want toys!
Things we don't really need, but which we want to have, for playing.
is perfectly fine and good! After all, what use would a lot of free
be, if we didn't have anything to play with in that time?
The problem is one of keeping proper measure. We need to find
balance between the time we spend working to make things, earn money,
the time we leave to enjoy the things we make or buy. All around me, I
see people working much more than really necessary,
in order to
pay for the newest plasma TV (which doesn't show any better resolution
than their 20 year old one that uses a picture tube), to pay the
on a home much larger and luxurious than they really need, or to buy
another new car, because the existing one is all of five years old and
looks shabby in the street, next to the neighbors' newer cars! This
is destroying the largest improvement that can be brought to us by
The possibility to work less of our time, and spend more of it doing
The other reason I see is that the existing work is not being properly
distributed among all people who are able to work. And this is where
title of this page comes in: It's not that we don't have enough jobs
all people! It's simply that we are stupidly lumping jobs together, so
that one person might be doing the work of two or three, getting
exhausted, despaired, and in many cases earning a lot more money than
truly needs, while at the same time some other people are desperately
for a job, don't find any, and have to suffer the consequences of
little or no money, but a lot of empty time!
How to fix the problem
It's trivially simple, really. By laws, regulations, public pressure or
whatever, we have to reduce the work time for each individual so much
there is work left over for those who are jobless now. Of course, the
also has to be re-distributed with the work. That means, someone who
works 60 hours a week, and earns five times as much as he really needs
for a basic, modest life, would have to share work and income with
who is jobless now and only gets an assistance that barely allows him
survive (taken from the taxes the first guy must pay!). When the
works, the first guy will see his workload reduced from the inhuman 60
hours per week to a very reasonable 30 hours per week, giving him lots
of time to relax, think, enjoy, be with his family, play, learn, etc.
other guy, who was jobless before, will now have an equally light,
week to work, and stop feeling like a piece of trash thrown away by
The first guy, whose work time was cut in half, might fear that his
will also be cut in half. Not so! He might not have been really aware
before he was paying the other guy's assistance money too! So, after
laws, taxes, etc, the first guy will get 60% of his former salary for
of his former work. Not a bad change, if you ask me! He will still be
three times as much as needed for a minimum existence. With all the
he has at hand now, he should be able to achieve a much better quality
of life than when he earned more, but had no time to use the money in
nice way! The other guy instead will infinitely appreciate that now he
has risen out of poverty, has a useful job to do, plus enough spare
and spare money to pursue his interests.
I fail to see why our politicians have been so slow in
that would implement this change in the regulation of society.
The modern, machine-driven world is not short of
jobs. The fact
that machines are replacing workers in many tasks is not
Machines don't earn a salary, and people want mostly the salary and not
the work that usually goes with it! Machines and people are ideal
We need to advance toward a society in which machines do as much as
of the repetitive, boring, hard, and dangerous work, while the
specialized work is still being done by people, properly distributed
the people, and the income is properly distributed among the people
In addition, we need to carefully think about exactly where
compromise between income and free time is. A life consisting just of
eating and sleeping makes no sense, while a life with no income doesn't
work. Somewhere between these two extremes we must find the golden
The exact balance point will of course differ for different people, and
so we need laws that accommodate this difference in tastes but also
it enough so that the workaholics among us cannot hoard all work there
is, and drive the rest of society into poverty!
Back to homo ludens philosophicus.