Thingish Things

Work Sharing; A Terrible Idea

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Nov• 21•11

The Wall Street Journal has a surprisingly positive article out today about an emerging practice in the U.S. called “work sharing.” It is an arrangement between private businesses and government wherein struggling companies reduce the number of hours employees work, and government, AKA taxpayers, steps in with supplemental unemployment benefits for those lost wages.

If, for example, a widget polisher is reduced from five work days to four, an unemployment check would arrive each week for that lost day’s wage, or something approximating it.  The argument in favor of work sharing is that it will allow companies to keep more employees on the payroll.  Instead of firing, say, 50 workers, The Acme Widget Company can put 250 employees on a four-day work week, with Uncle Sam picking up the slack.

It’s a terrible idea — the kind of thing the French would come up with. 

Work sharing sounds humane, but here are obvious downsides:

  1. Under this arrangement, no one would ever get off the public dole. Who wouldn’t want to work four days and be paid for five?
  2. It will allow employers to pare 20% of their payrolls overnight with little cost to them (they don’t give up their talent pool, just some of its weekly hours.) That’s fair neither to workers nor taxpayers;
  3. It will prop up failing businesses. Work sharing will interfere with the process of creative destruction that has made America what it is.  Companies that can’t cut it in the global marketplace would be artificially kept aloft by taxpayers. That’s a ruinous prescription;
  4. It sets an awful precedent.  Why just a 4-1 work week?  Why not work three days and get unemployment for two.  Or work two days  and receive benefits for three. Or, hell, work one day and have the government pay for four?, and
  5. It would threaten America’s tradition of a five-day work week (as France already has done.) Every part-time-job-seeking employee in America would seek a position in a company with such an arrangement.  

Ronald Reagan is badly over-quoted, but “work sharing” demands that this observation be cited yet again:  “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'”

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One Comment

  1. Daniel Suib says:

    That’s a horrible idea…’nuff said.

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