A shorter work week is the response we need to the urgent need to establish a new production model provoked by COVID-19.
It would be a step towards seeing the transformative change needed in our economies and it would also address current challenges of digitisation and task automation. As we have seen from the recent Icelandic trial – the 4 day / 32h work week does not only enhance worker wellbeing, but it has also been shown to maintain or increase productivity in the workplace.
Here's why we should all have a 4 day / 32h work week
Iceland held the largest trial on worktime reduction between 2015 and 2019, cutting what is a 40h work week for most to one between 35-36h. The trail was tested on 2,500 workers, and combined with a second trial initiated in 2017, represented more than 1% of Iceland's population.
The report noted that workers that participated "took on fewer hours and enjoyed greater well-being, improved work-life balance and a better cooperative spirit in the workplace — all while maintaining existing standards of performance and productivity." Its results show that we must decouple working hours from productivity and instead take a deeper look at how we work.
There were a variety of benefits for working families, individuals and couples, as well as employers. People felt more energised and being able to manage their personal time better, especially those with children in the home. They also noted that they could make healthier and more sustainable choices concerning them and their children's meals and travel due to having more time. Companies noticed that people were more loyal to their jobs since their time was valued, and they also took less sick days. One of the workers quoted in the study states:
"This [reduction in hours] shows increased respect for the individual. That we are not just machines that just work ... all day. Then sleep and get back to work. [But that] we are persons with desires and private lives, families and hobbies."
People also reported how these changes impacted the way in which they approached their work; including, rethinking work routines and having shorter meetings.
One of the impacts of the trial has been that 86% of the country's working population now have shorter working hour contracts or ones that give them the right do so in the future.
Towards a more sustainable and vibrant future
The resolution 'A four-day week for a greener, equal and fairer Europe', tabled by our member party Verdes Equo, was adopted at the 33rd European Green Party Council on 25-29 May 2021. It set the 4 day work week as the Green response to the economic, health and climate crises that we face today.
Among other demands, it called for the European Union to:
- Support the development of a strategy to reduce working hours coherently across Europe and to put into practice a four-day working week or the reduction of the working week to 32 hours
- Ensure that same pay, the same social rights, as well as annual leave is maintained, while allowing for additional recruitments
- Offer support, advice and guidance to enterprises and organizations to reduce working hours, as well as funding for training in organisational innovation and aid for job creation
- Strengthen the social partners such as trade unions in in the Member States and on the European level
- Ensure that current working time standards are upheld and enforced in all member states, including in precarious work, cross-border work and self-employment
The chair of the Finnish Greens has also stated his approval for the 4 day work week, and the Prime Minister has famously already backed a vision towards a 4 day work week and 6h days.
Our member party Verdes Equo has also been pushing for a 4 day work week to be implemented in Spain. Más País and Verdes Equo ran in coalition for the first time in the 2019 general elections. Its manifesto, which had the 4 day / 32h work week as one of its flagship policies, stated that:
"This measure has clear social and environmental benefits: fair and equal sharing of the paid workload; better family reconciliation so that unpaid work (essentially care and housework) is shared equally between men and women; reduced commuting and more time to engage in low-carbon activities: sport, recreation, leisure, health and leisure and a more prosperous economy due to better health of working people."
The coalition also commissioned a study including 1,000 surveys on public opinion of the 4 day week proposal. The government accepted the Más País - Verdes Equo proposal, which would be the first national pilot of the 4 day work week. Más País have announced investments of about 50 million euros in the next 3 years, which will be included as part of the General Budget of 2022.
The 4 day work week has many benefits for people, the health of our societies, and the planet. It not only enhances the wellbeing of workers but also contributes to safeguarding the environment, better health, more gender equality and social cohesion, and enriching democracy.