Labor Quota System

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A. Allen Butcher on one of the 3 production formats for the sharing of Time-Based Economics:

"More complicated communal economies involve the setting of a “labor quota” or minimal required labor contribution for a person to maintain their membership in the group or community.

Communities with labor quota time economies counting one hour of work as one “labor credit” are usually secular, replacing a cultural, spiritual or religious orientation to sharing with a commitment to a more quantifiable sharing process. Variable-credit labor systems in which different tasks are valued at different credit are rare because of their complexity. Labor quotas may be only a few hours per person per week, as in many small collective households, or they may be full-time workloads and may even include sub-quotas for particular tasks shared by all members, such as cleaning or income-producing. Communities with labor credit systems provide for members to work from one to five or more different “creditable” jobs in a particular day. Such a “radical flex-time” labor system supports members working in cross-gender roles, such as men sharing childcare, food service and other creditable domestic labor, and women sharing business, industrial, maintenance, construction, political, and other roles. “Egalitarian” labor credit systems, affirming the feminist goal of equality of the genders, provide training for all members in multiple skills for greater workforce flexibility, and more freedom of choice in work and one’s personal schedule. Drawbacks of the radical flex-time system are less efficiency as members frequently transition between jobs, and lower productivity as members concentrate less on proficiency in any one skill.

The best examples of communities using labor quotas are those in the Federation of Egalitarian Communities. Some, like Acorn Community in Virginia only require a quota of work in particular areas, such as in the least desirable fields of income and cleaning, while the rest of the member’s voluntary labor contribution to the community is entirely up to them in type and quantity. East Wind Community in Missouri requires a full quota of around 40 hours a week, sometimes including income and cleaning quotas.

The community with the most complicated time economy, involving labor budgeting and reporting, is Twin Oaks Community in Virginia. The community’s total labor supply is calculated (number of members times the labor quota), and from this labor budgets are set for particular work areas in the same way that money is budgeted. “Done labor,” or each member’s completed work in the budgeted work areas, is then recorded and reported, and compared against the previously set budgets and the person’s labor quota. A member’s failure to meet their labor quota gives them a “negative labor balance” which must be cleared by working extra hours in the future, in order to avoid placing into jeopardy the person’s membership in the group. “Over-quota” work is used to correct a negative labor balance or to earn vacation time for the member to be applied against a future quota. A member’s labor quota may be reduced for health or other reasons, and a permanently reduced labor quota is equivalent to the “pension” in monetary economies.

Through the system of labor budgets the community as a whole decides its collective priorities by how it divides its labor supply. The entire labor budgeting process, along with the income and expense projections process, is repeated in regular planning cycles, serving to keep the members of the community empowered and invested in the communal society. As a communal economy using a form of participatory governance requires a considerable amount of communication in decision-making, authority is usually delegated to managers, co-managers or committees in each work area, with feedback and appeal processes serving the value of maintaining a community-controlled economy. Delegating collective authority to managers is a means of making participatory governance more efficient by reducing the number of meetings. Also, acknowledging that individuals have the freedom and autonomy to make decisions that they believe to be in the best interest of the community nurtures trust and commitment." (


  1. Communal Economics, A. Allen Butcher, P.O. Box 1666, Denver, CO 80201-1666 USA [email protected]

More Information

See also: Communal Distribution

The other two production sharing formats are:

  1. Fair-Share Labor System‎
  2. Anti-Quota Labor System‎