The following is a condensed and edited interview with Carlos Slim, chairperson emeritus, Amrica Mvil .
Can you tell us about your plan for shorter workweeks?
Shorter workweeks are a solution to civilization shiftings. Historically, the more technology advances and the more progress here i am, people run less. Whats happening now is that people live longer, in better health, and without the necessity of achieving physical effort. This civilization demands more knowledge, more experience, less physical exertion. Productivity has increased exponentiallydespite the denial of some economists. And we see thats why unemployment is a big problem in a lot of countries, but more specifically Europe. Its important that people dont retire at 50, 60, or 65 years old. I suppose people should retire afterward, because theyll have more knowledge and experience. And I think they should work three days a week, so that it creates space for others.
This way, there will be less need for transportation. Nations wouldnt have to face early retirements that are financially destabilizing. The quality of life and having four days a week free would encourage a lot of economic activitiesmore tourism, entertainment, athletics, culture, and education. People can take advantage of those extra days to keep learning.
Would people earn less this style?
No, I guess the companies that can take this on are those in which productivity contribute to excess personnels. Its a great change to exchange fewer days of work for more years until retirement. In fact, we started this in Telmex[ Amrica Mvils fixed-line unit] a couple of years ago. Were offering people that have a lot of knowledge to stay longer and work fewer days.
And whats been the response?
About 40 percent of those offered take it.
Are there industries where a change like this would be more easily adapted?
In those industries where there is too much personnel, such as government agencies. Instead of cutting personnels, you are able to enter a strategy like this, where you can have more people, maybe pay more salaries, but youre avoiding having to pay when employees retire early. If I had been a regular worker in Telmex, I would have been retired for 22 years.
The exchange there is the shorter retirement, then?
If you look at it, its been slow, but with day people have been working less. Before they ran 72 hours, six days a week. Then 60 hours. The big success was the 48 -hour workweek. Then the English week, where you worked Saturday and merely rested on Sundays. Then 40 hours. Instead of working five days, for 35 hours, lets only run three days to make room for others to work.
How do you persuade people to take this on, when capitalist society tells us that the more you work the farther you get?
If you want to work more, then run more. You can have two jobs: one from Monday to Wednesday and the other from Thursday to Saturday. Thats an option. Another is working well three days and get developed on something the other days to get an even better job.
You meet with important people all the time. Have you lobbied for it?
Not lobbied. Ive attained it public, but its not a decision by decree. It has to happen gradually. Suppose that half of Telmexs employees were in excess. It would be a great solution: Youd have half working from Monday to Wednesday, the remainder from Wednesday to Saturday. You have a complete schedule, services 12 hours a day for 6 days. And people would retire at 75.
More and more, people will work less in their offices. Were going to have driverless autoes that will lower the number of cars and pollution. Parking plenties will have new employs, because we wont use them as much. Its easier to make wealth with less staff members and fewer costs. We have to lead a change in society so that those displaced people have activities. To create employment, you need new activities.
Weve touched on the positive repercussions. Are there any negative ones?
Theres resistance to all change. The most profound change is this new civilization. This new civilization changes from an industrial society to a service one. Theres still some politicians who praise the importance of industrial production. But they forget this is a service society. Have you seen Modern Times with Charlie Chaplin? He was part of the machine that has been displaced by robotics. Manufacturing is not only being done in other countries, but that production is done by machines. So the worker is no longer part of the machine, but he is a conductor and organizer of machines.
What about executives? Should they cut back?
You cant have one CEO three days and another one the rest, but senior managers are changed with some frequencynot as often as a[ football] coach-and-four, but you know what I mean. Executives advance, and CEOs and chairmen retire comparatively early and give space to new people.
Theres three figures: the one who expends, the one who manages, and the entrepreneur. For example, Warren Buffett is a great investor. There are others who have been great executives, like Ed Whitacre, former CEO and chairman of AT& T and General Motors.
In that sense, the entrepreneurs task doesnt genuinely have a beginning or an end?
No, because youre always supposing. Like an artist. Just because you finish a painting doesnt mean youre supposed to retire.
( Corrects photographer credit on the title photo .)
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