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Timesizing News, July 1-15, 2001
[Commentary] ©2001 Phil Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA 617-623-8080


7/14/2001  glimmers of timesizing -

7/13/2001  glimmers of timesizing - 7/11/2001  glimmers of timesizing - 7/10/2001  glimmers of timesizing - 7/08/2001  glimmers of timesizing -
  1. Who has the time? It's work, work, work, by Gary Cross, 7/08/2001 BG, D8.
    Once again it's summer, and many of us are anticipating or enjoying our two-week vacations. We may be grateful - ...until we hear that the Germans get 30 days of paid vacation and the French enjoy five weeks.... While Italian workers are entitled to an average of 42 vacation days, Americans receive only 13..\..
    This entitlement dates back to the years between the world wars when [European] governments began not only to set maximum workdays (similar to our 40-hour standard...) but also legislated vacation rights.
    For example, the two-week vacation was one of the great victories of the Popular Front in France in 1936. The paid holiday was the only idea that the left and right shared. Both believed that wage earners should have an extended vacation to escape crowded cities and factories long enough to return to ancient villages or the seaside for family reunions. By the 1960s...Europeans had discovered sunny Spain and Greece on their own continent and world travel as their governments extended vacations with each advance in national prosperity.
    Today, the French add to their vacations by trading in hours won from their newly reduced workweek of 35 hours for longer getaway time.
    This "luxury" of leisure [our quotes - ed.] has not seemed to affect productivity in France or elsewhere in Western Europe, where output per labor hour has surged in recent years despite an average work year of 1,737 hours (compared with 1,562 hours in Germany and 1,365 in the Netherlands).
    [Quick chart of all this -]
    Average workyear - [Gary Cross, as an historian with his brain in the past, may be forgiven for thinking that productivity still has some connection with manhours, but most of our economists, analysts and media people share this view, even though it has now been completely obsoleted by wave after wave of worksaving and output-multiplying technology for decades now. For more excerpts from this article, see the bottom of our vacations page.]

  2. Go ahead, take a vacation - The French do it better, by Peter Mayle, Boston Globe, D8.
    Two weeks a year in America. Five weeks a year in France. There you have the most obvious difference between the vacation and les vacances. That, you might think, is unfair enough; but worse is to come.
    It is not only that les pauvres americains [the poor Americans] are forced to make do with vacations that any sane French person would consider ludicrously, brutally short. To add to Americans' misfortune, even when they do take their [measly] 14 days off, they are almost always accompanied [by] guilt.
    How could it be otherwise? There they are, for 50 weeks a year, steeped in the work ethic [still "working hard" in the age of "working smart"], driven by the need to succeed [but "what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul"], conditioned by the [AngloSaxon] mania for furious activity.
    ["Cursed is he who must always be doing." "The majority of men lead lives of quiet desperation." "Let your affairs be as one or two, and not as a hundred or a thousand." Thoreau.]
    ...My friend and personal leisure consultant [down here in the south of France in Provence], Etienne...is rich in vacation time, if not in salary....
    1. Each January, to recover from the rigors of Christmas and New Year's, he drives his family to the French Alps - a trip of 3-4 hours - for a week on the slopes.
    2. ...In April, he takes a week in the hills behind the Cote d'Azur, where his mother-in-law has a small house. (He walks, he sniffs the mimosa, he plays [lawn bowling].)
    3. The month of May needs very little additional help...since it is a series of public holidays that conveniently stretch into a series of long weekends, perfect for short expeditions to the mountains or the sea.
    4. ...At the end of August...when the rest of the world is going back to the office, Etienne and his family head for the newly peaceful, still-sunny beaches near Marseille, where they spend the first half of September.
    5. The fifth and final week of [French vacation], usually in October, is taken at home, tending to the garden, with a couple of days of hunting wild boar in the forest.
    This is not an exceptional schedule, or is it reserved for the wealthy. There are thousands of Etiennes in Provence, hundreds of thousands throughout the rest of France.
    ...Despite all those five-week vacations [and nearly 50% of the workforce now on a 35-hour workweek], the country seems to survive very comfortably. The economy is doing pretty well.... And the French...taking their ease, look across the Atlantic and shake their heads in wonder at the curious habits of their friends in the "New" World.
    [Our quotes - ed. - because there's nothing new about short or no vacations. In fact, "work work work" is very old, as the accompanying article has it - "Who has the time? It's work, work, work," by Gary Cross.]

  3. [An accompanying graph indicates that France has the fifth shortest workyear in the developed world -]
    Consider this... By the numbers, International Labor Organization via Boston Globe, D8.
    [We reverse the order of the graph to make it a positive race for the least work instead of a backward race for the most work.]
    The US [trails] the industrialized world in the [race for the lowest] average number of hours spent on the job.
    Average annual hours worked
    Norway  1399
    Sweden  1552
    Germany  1574 [compare above, 1562]
    Switzerland  1643
    France  1656
    Ireland  1656
    Britain  1731
    Canada  1732
    Finland  1763
    Spain  1809
    New Zealand  1838
    Iceland  1839
    Australia  1866
    Turkey  1876
    Japan  1889
    United States  1966
    [It begins to get uncomfortable when, despite the end of the Cold War, the biggest economy with the most nuclear weapons becomes the most self-spiting and -punishing when it comes to quality of life and using technology, not to make life easier and more enjoyable, but to make it harder and more stressful. Notice that we are in the company of another large economy (Japan) that has been in chronic depression for the last ten years, and in the company of an economy that, if it is actually part of the industrialized world, is in the part that is closest to the third world (Turkey).]
    [Followup -]
    Workers of the world, take back your time, chart by Globe staff, 6/15/2003 Boston Globe, H4.
    ...Average hours worked per year, per worker [in] 2002, from Office [sic, if = *OECD, should be Organisation, not Office, of Economic Cooperation & Development [= U.N. agency? or 'USA in a glove,' like IMF & World Bank, with British veneer cuz 'Organisation' with /s/, not /z/? Their *mag website groups them with IMF.]
    [order reversed celebrate the basic freedom of free time -]
    Norway  1342
    west Germany  1428
    France  1545
    Great Britain  1707
    Spain  1807
    United States  1815

7/7/2001  glimmers of timesizing -
  1. Jobless rate edges up to 4.5% for US, by Sue Kirchhoff, Boston Globe, C1.
    ...Unemployment is only part of the story. The number of people working part time because they could not find full-time jobs rose by 266,000 to 3.6m in June. Part-time employment has risen by about a half-million people in the past three months. "There are a lot more people working part time than want to," said Cynthia Latta, economist at DRI-WEFA.
    [So hey, it's happening anyway. So why don't we just go with the flow and channel it in a more positive and lucrative way - à la Timesizing for instance.]
    "In some areas where it's hard to get help, businesses, rather than laying people off, are just cutting back on the hours."...
    [Whoa, an economist actually acknowledging that worktime is being used as an economic variable, in fact a control variable. Next step - they realize it's THE economic variable for the beginning of the Millennium.]

  2. Philippine industry facing output cutbacks, layoffs, by Michael Barker, Reuters 04:50 07-06-01 via AOLNews.
    MANILA...- Faced with the double whammy of declining exports as the global economy slows and higher input costs as the peso slumps, some Philippine manufacturers have quietly begun cutting back output and laying off staff. The Semiconductors & Electronics Industry Assoc. of the Philippines said its members have begun taking a number of cost cutting steps recently as demand has slowed. "Some are laying off people, some are shortening their work weeks," Assoc. exec. dir. Ernesto Santiago said, adding inventory levels have also been sharply reduced....
    Federation of Philippine Industries sec. gen. Joseph Francia said the currency's decline was ratcheting up costs to painful levels for import-dependent firms.... Francia said he had anecdotal evidence that some companies his association represented were scaling back production or letting workers go, but was loathe to predict mass job cuts....
    Employers Confederation of the Philippines president, Donald Dee, said the exchange rate has got to a point where manufacturers are now under heavy pressure to raise their prices.... With demand for manufactured goods down, companies were now having to take a close look at their staffing needs, Dee said, although they were trying to avoid wholesale job cuts. "I do not see massive layoffs or closures of factories.... Yes there is going to be some slowdowns especially in domestic industry and so what we are trying to tell members to do is to rotate their workers rather than laying them off."...
    [The only thing we can figure to explain this concept is that companies have cut back on shifts, e.g., from three 8-hour shifts per day to just two. And Dee is urging companies not to lay off third-shift workers but to rotate them through the other two shifts to keep them on the payroll and avoid layoffs. If this is correct, it's yet another way we hadn't thought of to do Timesizing, Not Downsizing.]

7/05/2001  glimmers of timesizing -
  1. Air Canada urges staff to voluntarily cut hours, by Keith McArthur, Toronto Globe & Mail July 4 2001 via Tom Walker via SWT e-list.
    Air Canada chief Robert Milton is urging employees to voluntarily reduce their hours or take a leave of absence to help the airline cope with the economic slowdown.
    There is little hope left for an economic recovery in the second half of the year, the president and CEO told employees recently in a recorded telephone message. As a result, Air Canada is looking to aggressively reduce all its expenses, including introducing new programs to lower labour costs.
    "When these programs are revealed, I ask all of you who would be in a position to accommodate reduced work hours to please consider them seriously, especially throughout the slower winter months," Mr. Milton said.... Mr. Milton said the company will work with its unions to develop programs to promote voluntary leaves of absence, reduced work hours, job sharing "and any other voluntary surplus mitigation initiative that we can sensibly think of."...
    [Why is he trying so hard to avoid layoffs?]
    Air Canada has separate contracts with most of its unions, guaranteeing job security over the next three years. It has also promised Ottawa, as part of its acquisition of Canadian Airlines, not to lay off workers involuntarily until March, 2002....
    Late last year, Air Canada announced plans to cut 3,500 jobs or 8% of the work force through attrition and a voluntary separation package. To date, about 1,350 employees have left the airline, with the remainder scheduled to leave by the end of the year.
    Like most other large North American airlines, Air Canada is suffering from high fuel prices and an economic slowdown that has resulted in a dramatic reduction in business-class passengers. Business revenue at U.S. airlines fell as much as 15% in May from the previous May, according to one estimate....

  2. IFO head warns German unemployment heading higher, Reuters 03:25 07-04-01 via AOLNews.
    BERLIN...- German unemployment is worsening to the point where it will be higher even in a year-on-year comparison by October at the latest, the IFO research institute was reported on Wednesday as saying.... But despite the monthly increases, unemployment has [so far] remained below year-earlier levels....
    Separately, Horst Siebert, head of the Kiel-based IFW institute and one of the government's panel of economic advisers or "wise men," accused the government of "re-regulating" the labour market with recent changes to employment rules.
    [Such as?? - We aren't told.]
    He called for a departure from industry-wide pay settlements where necessary and said Volkswagen [VW] AG's planned "5000 x 5000" scheme, which has foundered so far on opposition from the IG Metall engineering union, would have been the right signal. VW planned to create 5,000 new jobs at 5,000 marks ($2,166) a month to work on flexible contracts based around a maximum 42.5 hours a week. But IG Metall set 35 hours as an upper limit, saying anything more would undermine an existing agreement under which workers have a four-day, 28.8-hour week.
    [This was the agreement reached in the mid-1990s to save VW's headquarters town of Wolfsburg when VW was looking at 30,000 layoffs, and to avoid that, they instead cut hours for the whole company from the then-prevailing 35-hrs/wk level to 28.8 hrs/wk = four 7.2-hr days per week. Horst Siebert may be in Germany but he evidently "doesn't get" the whole new world introduced by automation and robotization where reduced worktime per person is no longer optional, it is imperative if we want to avoid the Ford-Reuther economic meltdown (Ford "Let's see you unionize these robots!" - Reuther "Let's see you sell them cars...").]


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