Work less, do less?
- 864 Downloads
A reduction in working hours is being considered to tackle issues associated with ecological sustainability, social equity and enhanced life satisfaction—a so-called triple dividend. With respect to an environmental dividend, the authors analyse the time use rebound effects of reducing working time. They explore how an increase in leisure time triggers a rearrangement of time and expenditure budgets, and thus the use of resources in private households. Does it hold true that time-intensive activities replace resource-intensive consumption when people have more discretionary time at their disposal? This study on environmental issues is complemented by introducing the parameters of voluntary social engagement and individual life satisfaction as potential co-benefits of rebound effects. In order to analyse the first dividend, a mixed methods approach is adopted, enabling two models of time use rebound effects to be applied. First, semi-standardised interviews reveal that environmentally ambiguous substitutions of activities occur following a reduction in working hours. Second, estimates for Germany from national surveys on time use and expenditure show composition effects of gains in leisure time and income loss. For the latter, we estimate the marginal propensity to consume and the marginal propensity to time use. The results show that time savings due to a reduction in working time trigger relevant rebound effects in terms of resource use. However, both the qualitative and quantitative findings put the rebound effects following a reduction in working time into perspective. Time use rebound effects lead to increased voluntary social engagement and greater life satisfaction, the second and third dividends.
KeywordsSocial acceleration Time use Working time Life satisfaction Mixed methods Resource use
The research was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the 4th International Conference on Degrowth for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in Leipzig in September 2014; the 25 Years ISOE Conference Lost in the Anthropocene? Sustainable Science in the Era of Mankind in Frankfurt Main in November 2014; the 6th Sustainable Summer School at UPC Barcelona in November 2014; the 1st Vienna Conference on Pluralism in Economics in April 2015, and the Good Life Beyond Growth Conference in Jena in May 2015. The authors are grateful for the comments received from conference participants.
- Becker GS (1965) A theory of the allocation of time. Econ J, pp 493–517Google Scholar
- Coote A, Franklin J, Simms A (2013) 21 hours: Why a shorter working week can help us all to flourish in the 21st century. New Economics Foundation, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Dunn E, Norton M (2013) Happy money: the science of smarter spending. Simon & Schuster, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Hertwich EG (2005) Consumption and the rebound effect: an industrial ecology perspective. J Ind Ecol 9(1–2):85–98Google Scholar
- Irrek W (2012) How to reduce the rebound effect? In: Bleischwitz R, Welfens PJJ, Zhang Z (eds) International economics of resource efficiency. Eco-innovation policies for a green economy. Springer, Heidelberg, pp 279–285Google Scholar
- Jalas M (2006) Busy, wise and idle time: a study of temporalities of consumption in the environmental debate. HSE Print, HelsinkiGoogle Scholar
- Kallis G, Kalush M, Flynn H, Rossiter J, Ashford N (2013) “Friday off”: reducing working hours in Europe. Sustainability 5(4):1545–1567 (Retrieved from http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/5/4/1545)
- Kotakorpi E, Lähteenoja S, Lettenmeier M (2008) Household MIPS: natural resource consumption of Finnish households and its reduction (No. 43en). Helsinki: Finnish Environment InstitutGoogle Scholar
- Layard R (2005) Happiness: lessons from a new science. Penguin Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Linder SB (1970) The harried leisure class. Columbia University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Minx J, Baiocchi G (2010) Time use and sustainability: an input-output approach in mixed units. In: Suh S (ed) Handbook of input-output economics in industrial ecology. Berlin, Springer, pp 819–845Google Scholar
- Nässén J, Larsson J (2015) Would shorter working time reduce greenhouse gas emissions? An analysis of time use and consumption in Swedish households, Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, advance online publication, doi: 10.1068/c12239
- Rosa H (2013) Social acceleration: a new theory of modernity. Columbia University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Schor J (2005) Sustainable consumption and worktime reduction. J Ind Ecol 9(1):37–50Google Scholar
- Schulze G (2013) The experience market. In Sundbo J, Sørensen F (eds) Handbook on the experience economy. Edward Elgar Publishing, pp 98–122Google Scholar
- Sorrell S (2010) Mapping rebound effects from sustainable behaviours: Key Concepts and Literature Review. SLRG Working Paper 01-10, Brighton, Sussex Energy Group, SPRU, University of SussexGoogle Scholar
- Watson D, Acosta-Fernandez J, Wittmer, Gravgaerd Pedersen O (2013) Environmental pressures from European consumption and production. A study in integrated environmental and economic analysis. EEA technical report 2/2013Google Scholar