Shorter Workweek Lengthens Family Time

Hooray for Volkswagen's leading the way to a shorter workweek! (``Public's `Furious Pessimism' Over the Decline in Jobs Spurs Hot Debate in France,'' Nov. 10).

Back in the now-legendary 1950s, married couples often shared one 40-hour-per-week job. He worked the 40 hours and she supplied a clean house, hot meals, child care, and community service.

When women started going to work in increasing numbers, people asked what would happen to the child care, the housework, and the community service, but nobody asked if there would be enough work to go around (even though the postwar '50s lifestyle was built on the assumption that there would not be).

While we continue to fudge on the first question, the '90s economy has answered the unasked second question: There simply isn't a 40-hour-per-week job for everyone who wants or needs one.

A shorter workweek answers both difficulties by simultaneously providing more jobs and more time at home. It may mean less cash for each family, but should also lead to a better quality of life and a more easily attained and sustained equality between the sexes. Kathe Geist, Brookline, Mass.

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