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Could A Shorter Work Week Help Create Jobs During COVID-19?




Essential workers keep businesses open and serve customers during COVID-19 pandemic.
Essential workers keep businesses open and serve customers during COVID-19 pandemic.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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Businesses big and small are hurting due to the coronavirus pandemic, and for many of these companies this has meant having to lay off employees in order to preserve the bottom line. But among the solutions that some in government and labor are suggesting as a mitigation tool for saving jobs are a reduction in work hours. 

The idea, as Wall Street Journal reporter Tom Fairless explains in his most recent piece, is that a shorter work week would mean less fatigue and stress among employees, and that those working hours that were cut from employees’ schedules could be transferred to the jobless, thereby creating work. But does this work in practice?

Fairless reports that, if the data that has come out of Europe is any sign, there’s not a direct connection between a reduction in weekly work hours and an increase in jobs. Still, as the pandemic continues, economies in many places remain closed and workers remain out of jobs, the idea is still being considered as a possible mitigation tool to address the job losses caused by COVID-19.

Today on AirTalk, we’ll take a closer look at what other countries have done to try and reduce work hours in the hopes of creating jobs, whether it has worked, what a system like this might look like in the U.S. and whether or not it would actually help spur job growth.

Guests:

Jennifer Hunt, professor of economics at Rutgers University and former first chief economist for the U.S. Department of Labor from 2013-2015; she has conducted studies on the relationship between work-sharing and employment in Germany

Alec Levenson, senior research scientist with the Center for Effective Organizations at the Marshall School of Business at USC; he tweets @alec_levenson