ABSTRACT

This chapter examines the relative merits of the work-sharing argument for reducing and reorganizing working time to provide the basis for additional employment. The Ten Hours reformers secured several Acts of Parliament, but these remained largely unenforced; it was not until an Act in 1847 that hours of women and children in textiles were brought broadly into line with average hours worked elsewhere. This legislation remains one of the landmarks of political reform in Britain on the question of working hours; subsequent changes in hours have primarily resulted from collective bargaining, following the rise of the trade union movement towards the end of the nineteenth century. The shorter Saturday became increasingly common in the latter part of the nineteenth century, and may have spread in Britain somewhat earlier than abroad. In recent years the work-sharing argument has received growing attention from economists and generated increased discussion, comment and criticism in trade union, employer and government circles.