How a three-day weekend can help the environment

The Universal Basic Income (UBI) and the movement towards a shorter work week are not also a way to solve inequality but to help the environment by stabilizing it, believes Professor Greg Marston, from the School of Social Science at the University of Queensland.

In his essay ‘The environmental impacts of a UBI and a shorter working week,’ he outlines how the process surrounding UBI raises questions wbout how we live and work now and how should be doing it.

 “A major policy and political challenge in the 21st century concerns how to create conditions for human flourishing within the ecological limits of a finite planet. Meeting this challenge requires the social and economic dimensions of public policy to be integrated with the environmental dimension so that moves towards a greener economy do not exacerbate income inequalities and social injustice,” he writes.

Already several countries around the world like Finland, The Netherlands, Canada, Uganda and Kenya have begun experimenting with UBI. Although these trials results won’t be available soon, an experiment conducted in Canada during the 1970’s in Manitoba revealed how this could help solve inequalities.

Read more: 8 experiments on the Universal Basic Income

But how can this help the environment? Well, UBI has the potential to change how we consider our consumer culture, argues Marston.

“We might see less reliance on the daily commute from the urban fringe to the city center to work during the week, and on the weekends people may also rely less on traveling to shopping malls to spend their disposable income on a mix of necessities and luxuries alike.”

Also, economists David Rosnick and Mark Weisbrot believe US can reduce emissions by 7% just by changing their working hours and adopting European standards. “Europe currently consumes about half as much energy per person as the United States,” they wrote on 2006.

More so, back in 2007 Utah shortened the work week to four days for its state employees, by extending Monday to Thursday hours and eliminating Friday workday, recalls Natalie Shoemaker from BigThink.

“In its first ten months, the move saved the state at least $1.8 million in energy costs. Fewer working days meant less office lighting, less air conditioning, and less time spent running computers and other equipment—all without even reducing the total number of hours worked.”

“Like all radical new policies and ideas, our society will need to engage with them by asking for evidence. Is this policy sustainable and does it provide us with a better lifestyle?” asks Shoemaker.

Read more: Could Universal Basic Income work in LatAm?

“Whatever specific social policy reforms are debated and adopted in the future,” Marston writes,”the justification for ‘welfare’ will need to be reframed in terms of human security and genuine sustainability, rather than facilitating labor market participation at whatever personal and environmental cost.”


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