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Temporal Justice


Distributive justice is ordinarily calibrated in monetary terms. But money is not the only resource that matters to people. Talk of the ‘work−life balance’ points to another: time. Control over one's time, the capacity to spend it as one wishes, is another important resource; and its distribution raises another important aspect of justice. Here I describe a new method of distinguishing how much time one has discretionary control over, net of the amount it is necessary to spend in certain ways given one's circumstances. To draw out the distributive-justice implications of these calculations, I contrast the most-to-least privileged, in terms of discretionary time: a person in a dual-earner couple with no children, versus a lone mother. The magnitude of the gap between the discretionary time enjoyed by the best and worst is a measure of temporal injustice. That gap is substantially larger in some countries (such as the US and Australia) than in others (such as Finland and Sweden). Conventional welfare-state interventions – tax and transfer systems, support for child care – contribute pretty similarly to reducing that particular gap across all the countries examined. Differing practices surrounding the dissolution of marriages with children potentially makes a much bigger difference. Differing labour-market policies might make a similarly large difference yet again.

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Journal of Social Policy
  • ISSN: 0047-2794
  • EISSN: 1469-7823
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-social-policy
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