The problem with the four day work week

We have a claim that Britons are all behind moving to a four day work week. And why not of course, leisure is indeed a luxury or superior good, as we get richer we devote more of our income to it.

Reducing the time we spend working would be welcomed by many. A recent UK poll found that 74% of people supported a four-day week.

Super, great, let’s do it. Except, well, there’s a proviso here. It’s a YouGov survey, which asked a rather more subtle question:

However, support falls off substantially if a four day week were to shrink the national economy and leave people worse off financially. Under these circumstances, only 17-26% of people would support making the shift.

That is, we’d like the extra leisure but we don’t want to be poorer by having it. Or, the same statement, we don’t think we’re rich enough yet to take that extra leisure.

The importance of this being that the claim about the four day week is being advanced to bolster the case for our all walking more lightly upon the planet:

By working less, we produce fewer goods and services that require precious resources to make. We also consume less in the process of getting our job done.

Consuming less is, by definition, being poorer.

So the claim advanced - we should work less to reduce consumption. Many people would like to work less but only if they don’t have to reduce consumption. The number who don’t want to reduce consumption can’t be used as an argument in favour of reducing consumption now, can they?