Why The World’s Second Richest Man Wants You To Work Less

Carlos Slim believes you work too much, and predicts that decreasing the work-week to three days could inspire new growth and boost the economy.

Imagine spending only three days at work each week. Would you want that? Would it free up time to work on other projects, spend with family, travel, or just improve the status of your life? According to Carlos Slim, the world’s second-richest man, such a “radical overhaul” in the way most people work could be beneficial for the individual and economy.

Image Credit: Flickr / itupictures

Image Credit: Flickr / itupictures

The 74-year-old Telmex CEO believes that because productivity decreases as work hours increase, reducing the hours one spends invested in their job per week could help to improve work output, as well as inspire new entertainment for production to keep the public occupied.

“With three work days a week, we would have more time to relax; for quality of life,” said Carlos during a recent business conference in Paraguay. “Having four days [off] would be very important to generate new entertainment activities and other ways of being occupied.”

Working only three days per week has its downside, however; people would need to work until they were 70 or 75 years of age. The work week would be shorter, but there would be a lot more of them. And the goal of retiring by 50 or 60 – which already seems somewhat of an impossible dream today – would not be a possibility.

The suggestion of the rich CEO, whose net-worth currently exceeds $80 billion according to Forbes, does make sense, however, especially when compared with similar notions of productivity in the workplace.

It seems working more makes people less productive; and among the world’s top economies, the U.S. ranks highest for working the longest hours. According to data compiled by the Economist and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, as people worked more hours, productivity declined.

Credit: The Economist

Credit: The Economist

As the charts clearly display, the more one works, the more GDP-per-hours-worked descends. In locations like Germany where people only work 1,400 hours each year, the workforce is 70% more productive than the Greeks who average 2,000 hours each year.

Credit: The Economist

Credit: The Economist

While the intent behind such a suggestion might be intelligent, there would be many kinks to work out for such a system to thrive. Many people work exorbitant amount of hours because they need the income, not because they feel inspired by their job.

A three day work-week could most definitely free up time for refreshed perspective, bonding time with the family, and space for personal development and growth, but would such events take place if no initiative or inspiration was given to the public? In Carlos’ mind, time not spent at work could be utilized to create more entertainment for the media with the focus of occupying’ the public’s mind. Many would argue, however, that there is already plenty of mindless preoccupation with entertainment, and such time could (and should) be invested in other areas.

On a positive note, the trade-off between fewer hours and more work weeks definitely seems worth it. Less hours spent in the office would result in a more productive populace, which could result in a stimulated economy, which could in effect encourage growth.

Regardless, increasing efficiency and reducing workload is no doubt a priority for many, and there are countries who are already implementing programs to try and accomplish just that. In 2014, Sweden introduced a program to lessen the seven-hour-work day to six. While it is currently just an experiment, Finland also did something and reported success.

Despite the opposition of such a proposal in the U.S., it is inevitable that some form of change will one day take place. The world is no longer in an industrial age, and instead yearns to evolve into an age of information. With such advance, application of wisdom and pursuit of knowledge could be the focus, allowing many things to change. Not only would work requirement decrease, but technology could be utilized to efficiently ‘run the system’; in effect, every individual would have time to invest in personal growth and experience transformation.

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