Working hours in present-day conditions
The growing significance of the time factor is leading to greater realisation of the new sociological and psychological dimensions of both working life and non-working life. These interact and are of equal concern to the individual so that they need to be studied together. Here, however, we shall only be dealing with the first aspect, in which working hours and the changes taking place in them occupy a central position.
Looking back, we can see how much the social and human aspects of working hours have changed. The main need is no longer to prevent excessive hours from being worked, but to deal with evils of a different kind due to the pace of modern life. Industrial and urban growth now force many workers to live in the suburbs. The increasing cleavage between work and home means that more time has to be spent away from the latter in connection with one's job, quite apart from the demands of the job itself - the fatigue of travel is added to the normal work fatigues.
The technological and economic aspects of the question have also changed - greatly. Technological progress has led to a spectacular increase in productivity. While this has made for shorter working hours, the high cost of modern machinery and plant and the need to make them pay for themselves quickly have led to shift working, with the advantages and disadvantages that this involves.
Finally - and this needs particular emphasis - there is the present tendency to view hours of work in a wider framework, since technological and scientific progress in various fields and the rate of change in modern life are making increased scale and larger units of measurement necessary. The time when hours of work per day and week were the sole concern is long past. We are moving towards the unit of the working year (allowing for vacations and public holidays) or, better still, the working life concept (allowing for the minimum age for employment and the retirement age).1
This account of the new features would be incomplete without a reference to the importance of the psycho-social framework in which people work and which has an influence on the pattern of hours of work. The framework is determined in part by the personnel structure (age, sex, marital status, family responsibilities, and the proportion of workers who are handicapped, foreign or country-dwellers) and in part by the effects of business fluctuations and structural factors.2
All this goes to show that, in present conditions, the problem of working hours goes beyond the setting of statutory limits, and involves also the scheduling and distribution of hours in accordance with two principles, i.e. a relaxation of standard patterns and a degree of freedom of choice, accepted by society and regarded as basic to job satisfaction.3
A further effect of the changed character of the time factor can be seen in the relationship between the planning of working hours on one side, and the pattern of school hours and town and country planning on the other side. The arrangement of hours in and out of school affects not only the children but also their teachers, the parents and the whole population. The school calendar affects the timetable for family and work-related activities, travel and leisure. Conversely, work schedules have an impact on school timetables. And the repercussions of the different patterns of working time on town and country planning are obvious. For example, a change-over to a working day with only a short midday interruption enables housing to be further out and more dispersed. Again, the introduction of flexible hours, longer work-free periods and individual choice of rest days leads to an easing of traffic problems and more efficient use of public transport and recreational facilities.
Experience to date shows that the different approaches to the scheduling of working time are inter-related and complementary. It has teen noted, for example, that the adoption of flexible daily hours is followed sooner or later by demands for more flexible schedules over the week, month or year.l
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