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Journal Article

New Labour and work-time regulation: a Marxian analysis of the UK economy


Publication date

May 2015


This article examines the impact of work-time regulation, introduced by the UK’s New Labour governments (1997–2010). In doing so, we return to Marx’s hypotheses regarding the length of the working day. These include the arguments that class conflict over the length of the working day is inherently distributional in a surplus-value sense and that workers often display a preference for reduced hours even with a proportionate reduction in pay. Our quantitative Marxist methodology provides a way of assessing the pattern of surplus value before and during the period of office of the New Labour governments and the distributional effects of regulation. The impact of such regulations on workers’ preferences are examined through an investigation of British Household Panel Survey data. Although many have been sceptical concerning the record of the last Labour governments, policies such as the Working Time Regulations (1998) and the Work-Life Balance Campaign (2000) are found to have been noteworthy innovations in the labour market. This is all the more important given recent moves by the successor government to weaken work-time regulation. Our results suggest the impact of these policy initiatives was broadly favourable, though the effect on men and women was different.

Published in

Cambridge Journal of Economics

Volume and page numbers

39 , 711 -732

DOI 10.1093/cje/beu057




Law And Legislation, Labour Market, Labour Economics, Public Policy, and Government



Albert Sloman Library Periodicals *restricted to Univ. Essex registered users*


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