Imagine an economy with more than two million people at work, hit by a recession where more than 500,000 suddenly lose their jobs. What's the quickest way to get these people back to work?
After 2008, Ireland endured years of austerity - new taxes and higher taxes while public services were hollowed out. Not enough teachers, gardaí, nurses or doctors were hired.
Thousands emigrated. Others facing unemployment took whatever work was available - many were pushed into precarious work. The State borrowed harsh welfare policies from the UK, holding the threat of a cut to benefits over all claimants - and discriminating against the under-25s by reducing their welfare to €100.
This time will be different. No one can emigrate for jobs. Solutions must be radical. Many economists are calling for central banks to go beyond lending money to states and banks and start printing money for people. Implicitly, this is a short-term measure which leads to inflation.
Why is inflation a problem? If you have assets or savings, it reduces their value compared to earnings, because wages must keep pace with the price of goods.
Even this idea of printing money temporarily is not particularly radical. It reduces the comparative size of government debt, which helps states create jobs in future. Ultimately, it is just a temporary fix, hoping that the economy will return to normality.
The economy will not return to normal. It never does. There are always winners and losers. States shape outcomes by their policies. Last crisis, ordinary people lost out and banks were preserved. Established wealth was prioritised over the young.
Let's return to our imaginary country - not so far away - where a quarter of workers suddenly lose their jobs. Before the crisis, around 2.3 million people worked about 12 million days every week. Now, 1.5 million work about eight million days a week.
Rather than waiting for the market to create half-a-million jobs, what if we shared out the work between the workers? Basic arithmetic tells us that we can give two million people work immediately if they all work a three-day week.
Of course, economics is not just mathematics. Those who have lost their jobs may not have the right skills or live in the right areas to immediately share the jobs that remain. Many companies are not sufficiently flexible. Other workers are solo self-employed. Reduced working-time is only part of the solution.
What about wages? If you work 60pc of the week, your hourly wages need to increase to cover the shortfall. To pay the bills, the minimum wage would need to be €16.
Since the 1970s the real value of wages has stagnated while productivity has almost doubled. This hike in wages only redresses the balance.
Inflation helps here. Increase wages and the relative cost of existing debts goes down. But costs also go up. Eventually the state has to cap inflation by negotiation with unions on wage restraint and controlling prices - for instance, in rents.
Dogmatic economists will say it's impossible and many businesses will say they can't afford a three-day-week.
History is against them: the industrial revolution was based on a six or even seven-day week, which trade unions slowly negotiated down to a five-day week.
Sometimes ideas thought to be impossible become necessary: Covid-19 may create recurring lockdowns. If we split each workplace into two shifts - Monday-Wednesday and Thursday-Saturday - we'd halve the chances of re-infection.
Across the world, evidence from companies with shorter working weeks or shorter days demonstrates that less work actually means more productivity. Happier, healthier workers and a more sustainable life-style are possible.
Beyond economics, a three-day week is also ecologically sound: less time in traffic, more time at home with family, less pressure on infrastructure, more time in the community.
Any transition to a three-day week must be gradual. Forsa, the main civil service union, proposed a four-day week last September. State services are a great place to start.
Tax and employment policy can support a three-day week. Stiff taxes on higher wages will incentivise workers to take a break rather than over-time. Making 25 hours the standard working week - after which employers must pay double-time - would see any flexible employer start to share out the work.
Remote working and the need to reduce travel to cut carbon emissions may transform how we work and socialise forever.
Our society is in lockdown, our economy is on pause, but we need to think about the future. In dark times, we need hopes for a better world - and plans for how to create it.
Dr Tom Boland is a lecturer in sociology at UCC