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Google's Larry Page talks of killing the 40-hour work week

Sharon Gaudin | July 8, 2014
Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page said we may someday see more part-time work weeks than we do today -- and that would be a good thing.

Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page said we may someday see more part-time work weeks than we do today.

Page and Google co-founder Sergey Brin held a sit-down fireside chat with Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures, late last week at a Khosla Ventures summit.

The on-stage conversation ranged from comments about an early opportunity to sell the company to a new battle between the tech-haves and have-nots. And after talking about machine learning and machines taking on more jobs once held by humans, the conversation swung around to an issue that seems close to his heart - not everyone needs to work a 40-hour work week.

"I totally believe we should be living in a time of abundance," said Page. "Think about what we need — housing, security, education for our kids. The amount of resources and work to do that is pretty small. I'm guessing less than 1%. The idea that everyone needs to work frantically to meet people's needs is not true."

Part of why most people want to work a 40-hour week is more about social needs than financial ones, according to Page.

"A lot of people aren't happy if they don't have something to do," he said. "They need to feel needed and wanted...."

In a theoretical part of the interview, Page also said he would tackle unemployment by trying to get companies to hire two part-time workers instead of one full-timer.

"That way, two people have a part-time job instead of one having a full-time job," said Page. "Most people, if I ask them would you like an extra week of vacation, 100% would raise their hands. Two weeks or a four-day work-week? They'd raise their hands. Most people like working but they also want more time with their families or their interests. We should have a coordinated way to adjust the work week."

He did not say he would be taking that tack at Google.

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, said of course it would be nice to work less and for companies to employ more people. But that doesn't solve all the problems.

"I can see value in two people getting work experience and competitiveness, but it doesn't solve the problem of not being fully employed," he added. "It's not like rent is half as expensive if you are half-employed."

The comment could also fuel the growing anger in the Bay Area between the tech-haves and the have-nots.

"It is a good example of reinforcing a belief that they haven't worried about paying rent or filling the refrigerator for a long time," said Moorhead. "This is out of touch with your average Google user and comes off as a bit idealistic."


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