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Prolongation of Working Life

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PROLONGATION OF WORKING LIFE The prolongation of the working life is a social ideal, quite comparable in definiteness and in the strength of its appeal to that prolongation of child hood which education and physiology alike de mand. The one is indeed the natural corollary of the other. Childhood is prolonged in its protec tion, its postponement of wage earning, its spon taneous freedom, both for its own sake, because that is the natural, the normal, the human, the God-like way to spend the years of childhood; and also because that is the natural and usually the only guarantee of a prolonged and effective work ing life in the years of maturity.

Work in adolescence, on education's terms only, not for gain but for development and preparation, leads to the capacity for work later on for the sake of the product, for the productive efficiency which is a natural, an irresistible expression of human energy, just as recreational activities, the more passive and receptive occupations, are a natural expression of a capacity for leisure.

Our ideal is that in the skilled trades, in indus trial pursuits of all kinds, and in agriculture, the active working life of man shall be prolonged until there are or might be grandchildren, until the youngest sons and daughters are grown, and the older ones are more like partners and comrades than like children, with established occupations and homes of their own, into which, if it seems wise, the retiring laborers may come at last as honored guests, or, especially in widowhood, as welcome members of the household, full of years and honor and respect, no worn-out broken wrecks of industry, but hale and hearty still, moving in and out with dignity and a just consciousness of honest, strenuous, useful work, cheerfully undertaken, regretfully relinquished, and now worthily trans ferred to the broad shoulders of competent matur ity in the next generation.

The prolongation of the working life is desirable from the employer's point of view. It means a longer time to realize on the initial investment in training. It means fewer changes, better rela tions, a steadier labor force, fewer strikes and mis understandings, less animosity, more loyalty. It is even more desirable from the point of view of the workers themselves and their families. Whether

they work for wages, as at present the vast majority of industrial and clerical workers do, or, as they may in a day of more industrial democracy, on some cooperative plan for themselves, it is advan tageous to be able to work for forty years instead of twenty. To the individual and his family there is an economic and a moral loss when the purposes of education and nurture are thwarted by a tragic breaking down of health and efficiency at middle age. For the individual himself, whatever his vocation, sex, or station in life, there is more than a mere arithmetic gain when a few years are added to the period of the working life. We study with appreciation and pleasure the lengthening span of life as a whole, but most significant of all is the lengthening span of its active, vigorous, productive period. For, constituted as we are, there is a pleasure directly associated with work—with the putting forth of creative energy—which is unique, which is wholly denied to the invalid, to the vale tudinarian. This is not to cast slurs upon the compensating pleasures which they may be so fortunate as to discover. We are to have a place— a large place—in genuine old age for those pleasures also; but, like those of every other stage of normal life, they must bide their time. Prematurely antic ipated, they crowd out keener, more appropriate experiences, which, if lost when they are due, are lost forever.

The expansion of the working life is not to be one of empty duration. To be of value, it must be of more than one dimension: longer in years, deeper in productive efficiency, broader in variety. We demand a working life fuller in return to the worker, more remunerative, and entitled to the greater remuneration because more productive, freer from dangers and fears and uncertainties, taking a greater share in planning, directing, and determin ing the conditions of industry, transforming laborer into capitalist, entrepreneur, and owner of natural resources—not necessarily, not even probably, by revolution or violence, but by evolutionary de velopment, which may be more rapid and more sure than revolution, by emancipating education and conscious social construction.

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