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The Four Day Week

by Otto Meyer Wednesday, May. 12, 2004 at 9:10 AM

"The neoliberal medicine Less State and More Market does not work.. That the neoliberal medicine does not heal the economy and society but damages them must be clear to everyone who hasn't suc-cumbed to the neoliberal delusion."


By Otto Meyer

[This article originally published in: Ossietsky 8/2004 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,]

VW cancels 5000 jobs, Ford 4000, Siemens threatens with even greater cuts, the Commerce- and Dresden banks want to dismantle 3000 jobs each and the German Central Bank plans similar layoffs. This is always justified as improving the “profit goal”. This goal could be realized by shifting jobs abroad or longer working hours at home coupled with wage renunciation of employees. The state as employer leads the way. In Bavaria, state employees will work 42 hours a week and 41 hours in North Rhine Westphalia. 100,000 jobs could be economized away. Similar announcements could be easily added. The madness has a method.

“Experts” of the German Central Bank urge governments to open up more “efficiency reserves”. Spending could be “best limited through further personnel cuts” (Frankfurter Rundschau, March 16, 2004). Thus the cancellation of 1.5 million jobs in the public economy sector since 1990 has not gone far enough. The neoliberal medicine “Less State and More Market” does not work rightly. Private schools, kindergartens or hospitals bring inadequate profits. The dose must be increased. The dismantling of the social state must accelerate…

The neoliberal dogmaticians of the German Central Bank require a “scrutiny” of social benefits. In their opinion, an active labor market policy offers a considerable savings potential in benefits”. We remember: Gerster issued decrees and Clement the Hartz laws. Assistance was reduced; reasonability- and claim-criteria were intensified to get the unemployed moving. This has not reduced unemployment. The announced number of the jobless in February 2004 was 4.64 million. When those 400,000 are counted who were removed from statistics since last year through exclusion from benefits and manipulations, there are more than five million, thus more than at the end of the Kohl era. Seven to eight million jobs are actually missing in Germany.

That the neoliberal medicine does not heal the economy and society but damages them must be clear to everyone who hasn’t succumbed to the neoliberal delusion. Whoever forces employees to longer and more intensive work with declining wages and excludes more and more people from regular paid work intensifies the crisis. The domestic purchasing power falls leading to further demand loss and more and more plant closures. Whoever ignores and locks out human labor robs the economy of its productive power, its true assets. Immense human capacities are condemned to idleness or wasted in often-meaningless mini-jobs. The sources for possible wealth become polluted and dry up. Slums spread and criminality and drug scenes worsen. The rich screen themselves off in their suburban ghettos and send their children to elite schools accompanied by security guards. Democracy and the rule of law cannot thrive but can only wither under these conditions.

Society must finally free itself from the delusion system even if the mass media propagate this system every day. The past medicine of the governing must be decontaminated as toxic waste. An economy that should serve everyone can only develop through the promotion and equal participation of all people. As a democratic actor, the state is responsible for giving rules to the market and setting useful public interest goals. The state must spend more not for armaments and surveillance but for the social realm, education and culture – organized locally in a solidarian and democratic way.

The change in medicine demanded here is a completely different distribution of paid work and pay. This can and must be fixed by law. The 28-hour and four day week will be introduced in a five-year program. Seven hours of gainful work per day are enough. Full wage compensation will be guaranteed through labor market laws and wage conditions. Everyone will receive standard wages even if previously unemployed or dependent on mini-jobs.

Funds exist for the system change in the labor market but unfortunately are in the wrong accounts. In 2003, financial assets rose around 170 billion Euros to 3.9 trillion Euros. If the distribution between capital and labor were the same as 1980, more than 100 billion Euros would have been available last year for wages. In 1980, 58.6 percent of the gross domestic product was the gross pay of employees. In 2002, this share fell to 53.6 percent, a dive percent drop. In 2002, five percent of the gross domestic product amounted to 105 billion Euros. With this sum, 3.3 million employees could be immediately paid in full time jobs with an average annual pay of 32,728 Euros. Billions would then flow into the state treasuries, particularly in the social treasuries. The social fees and the gross labor costs of businesses would fall. New employees would satisfy their previously unfulfilled consumer desires and thus immediately revive the economy.

The nation, territories and communities can and must cooperate in the overdue employment program in a human-friendly way and not merely restoring the public sector that is partly destroyed. Here at least a million full time jobs could be quickly arranged to outfit kindergartens, schools, universities, youth- and senior citizen homes, theaters, swimming pools, libraries and so on with the necessary personnel. The increased free time opens up new possibilities for unfolding the creative powers of everyone.

The initial additional expenses for a million full time employees in the public sector amount to 33 billion Euros. In the first year, nearly 90 percent of the expenses would be balanced by lower expenditures for unemployment benefits, income support and housing subsidies along with additional revenue in wage and sales taxes and contributions in the social treasury. In the second year, a positive balance for the state would result through additional revenues in fees and duties. In the area of internal revenue, several thousand additional tax investigators could collect 30 to 40 billion more Euros according to expert estimates.

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