For over eight decades, the 40-hour work week has been the standard here in the United States.

Sure, some hourly workers find themselves working less, and some people in specialized fields find themselves working more than 40 hours per week, but the average salaried worker clocks 40 hours a week.

That may be about the change.

The amount of time that most of us spend at work could soon be slashed by 20%.

umit yildirim, Unsplash
umit yildirim, Unsplash

Senator Bernie Sanders' plan

According to the New York Times, U. S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has proposed a standard 32-hour work week.

Most of us would get behind this idea, right?  There is a catch that has some employers concerned.  Despite a 20% reduction in the number of hours they work, workers would not see a reduction in their earnings.

During a Thursday hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, Sanders responded to this concern.  He explained that, over the last few decades, technology increased productivity, but the only people who seemed to reap the benefits of this increased income were the corporate leaders.

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Opponents of the idea are concerned that this could lead to some companies closing down operations in the United States in favor of moving operations to other parts of the world where labor is cheaper.

Proponents point to studies done in the United Kingdom that have reportedly shown that organizations who have made the switch to a four-day work week are still on that arrangement a year later.  The fact that these businesses have stuck with the idea shows that it must be working.

Over the last few years, we have heard a lot about switching to a four-day work week.  In those scenarios, however, the employee still works 40 hours per week.  Instead of working five eight-hour days, they work four 10-hour days.

From the sounds of it, this plan would have employees working four eight-hour days each week.

If it becomes law, it would not happen overnight, either.  The plan would be for the 32-hour work week to be phased in over several years.

My opinion on Bernie Sanders' plan

Even though I'd love to work less and get paid the same amount of money, I see some problems with this plan.

I think everyone involved needs to admit that this would be a great idea for a lot of industries, but not all industries.

It probably would not pose any problems for project-based businesses, like software developers, architects, engineering firms, auto mechanics, and legal firms, for example.  But how would it affect manufacturing, retailers, and service-based industries?

Also, what about businesses requiring hands-on workers that are operating on very narrow margins?  Under the proposed change their productivity would drop, but their expenses would remain unchanged.

There is a lot more than needs to be discussed before this could ever become a law.

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