Less work for the same pay

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Less work for the same paydsc01966

(llco.org)

An experiment is afoot in First World, in social-democratic Sweden: less work, same pay:

“Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city, will begin its experiment with six-hour working days this summer, hopefully proving that the shorter work hours can make up for what they lose in time with more efficient work.

If the plan goes well, it could spread across the Swedish civil society, but some lucky Gothenburg residents are already living the dream. Last week, Agence France-Presse spoke to a mechanic in the city who was working a six-hour day. ‘My friends hate me. Most of them think because I work six hours, I shouldn’t be paid for eight,’ Robert Nilsson explained.” (1)

The Third World and First World should not be conceived as rigid categories. Rather, they are poles in a continuum. Very wealthy populations like those of Western Europe, the United States, Canada, Japan, etc. are more stereotypically First World whereas poorer populations like the majority in India, Bangladesh, Haiti, etc. are more stereotypically Third World. Other countries, perhaps the populations of the Balkans or Chile, fall closer to the middle of the continuum. The following list compares the annual hours worked per worker for 2012. The list is not clear whether it is counting just waged and salaried employees or others. Our guess is the list probably counts wage earners and possibly salaried employees only, not peasants who work their own land and other kinds of laborers, for example. Unfortunately, those countries that are most Third World are not represented on the list. Even so, the list of annual hours actually worked per worker for 2012 is informative:

“Mexico  2,225.66
Greece 2,033.96
Chile 2,029
Russian Federation 1,982
Poland 1,929
Israel 1,910
Estonia 1,889
Hungary 1,888.45
Turkey 1,855.058
Czech Republic 1,800.231
United States 1,789.922
Slovak Republic 1,785
OECD countries 1,765.488
Italy 1,752
Japan 1,745.201
New Zealand 1,739
Australia  1,728
Canada 1,710
Iceland 1,706.1
Austria 1,699
Portugal 1,691
Spain 1,686
Finland 1,672
United Kingdom 1,654
Slovenia 1,640
Sweden 1,621
Luxembourg 1,609
Belgium 1,574
Denmark 1,545.95
Ireland 1,529
France 1,479
Norway 1,419.7
Germany 1,396.6
Netherlands 1,381
6 hour work day 1,332″ (2)

Even though there are exceptions in the list, in general, the poorer countries are clustered toward the top, followed by wealthier countries in the middle and bottom. Mexico, with one of the poorer populations on the abbreviated list, falls somewhere between the poor extreme of the Third World and the middle of the continuum between Third World and First World. It is important to point out that Mexico is one of the wealthier counties of the Third World. Even though this is the case,  Mexico is probably has the poorest population of all the countries on the above list. Of those countries on the above list, Mexico is at the top, its laborers working the most. Of those countries on the list, other poorer countries are clustered at the top list. If the list were to include other, poorer Third World economies with industry, it is almost certain those workers would work even more hours than Mexican workers and much more hours than the wealthier First World countries. Obviously just looking at hours worked gives a very incomplete view of the Third World. The Third World also contains huge populations that exist in dire poverty that have been rendered unproductive by the system: some slum populations, some landless rural populations, refugees, etc. These populations are not represented in the list. Even so, the list tends to confirm that when Third World people can work, they work for longer doing harder work, under worse conditions, for less pay. Almost always, their work is more physically demanding than First World labor.

In terms of the distribution of hours amongst the wealthier countries, the reason that some poorer First World economies like Portugal work less than the United States is probably accounted for by different cultural norms, the existence of European social-democracy, type of economy, etc. In any case, Sweden’s experiment of  shortening the work week without lower pay is yet another indicator of the great difference between quality of life between the First World and Third World. There are other ways that the amount of work has been shortened in countries like the United States that are not accounted for on the list. For example, in many cases, some populations of the United States are entering the work force later due to the lengthening of adolescence, extending higher education, etc. It is no accident that there was great growth in leisure culture and adolescence following World War 2 as the United States emerged as the leader of the Western imperialists. Many have observed the lax attitude toward work of “generation x,y, and z.” “Thirty is the new twenty” is a popular characterization of this extension of adolescence that, in some cases, acts as a kind of extension of years spent consuming without working, similar to retirement but prior to entering the workforce full time. Again, this does not characterize every American, but it does characterize a significant part of the population. By contrast, Third World workers tend to enter the workforce younger and they do not typically receive retirement. This kind of contrast is not reflected by simply looking at hours worked per year by country. In reality, the disparity in activity is probably much greater for a regularly employed worker in the Third World compared to the First World.

This experiment is an example of how social peace is bought in the First World at the expense of denying increased quality of life to the Third World. It is a sign of what Lenin called “the seal of parasitism” for the First World. That the First World can afford such compromise between its strata shows the different strata of the First World are not antagonistic. Those who work in the First World have far more in common with those above them than with those below them in terms of lifestyle, culture, and class interest. In general, compromise and unity is how different First World strata relate. This is in sharp contrast to how the First World deals with the antagonistic poorer populations of the Third World. This is also reflected in the general lack of revolutionary activity in the First World compared to the Third World. The reactionary nature of the First World even infects those who claim to be leftists. They “wave the red flag to oppose it.” Some First Worldist anarchists seek to preserve their First World lifestyles while “abolishing work” entirely. How this could be achieved without continued imposition of suffering on the Third World is not explained by these social-imperialists. Similarly other First Worldists seek to increase First World consumption at the expense of the masses in the Third World.

The global economy is a game that distributes quality of life. It is a game with winner and losers. Those in the First World are winners for the most part. The masses in the Third World lose under capitalism-imperialism. The First World is populated by class enemies for the most part. The real revolutionary populations are the masses of the Third World, the Proletarian World. Leading Light is the voice of the poor. Leading Light is the sword and shield of the poor. It is the duty of every Leading Light to dedicate everything, to sacrifice everything, to live and die for the people. Serve the people. We fight for our future. Our day is coming.

Notes

1. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/06/02/how-great-would-swedens-proposed-six-hour-workday-be-this-great/
2. ibid.