Democratic Party Secretary Elly Schlein recently proposed experimenting with the four-day work week. Lord have mercy! If only Italy, as industrious as any when it comes to importing precariousness, a higher retirement age and merciless privatization from abroad, were to also be inspired by the great industrialized countries when it comes to improving workers’ conditions.
Reducing the number of working days per week is not just a hot topic in Germany, where it’s at the heart of the platform of the metalworkers’ union. The possibility of introducing a third rest day per week – not necessarily on Fridays – is the object of experimentation and debate in a number of European countries, as well as in the United States.
The issue has emerged around the world in different ways: under the impetus of civil society actors, as in the United Kingdom with the 4 Day Week Global NGO; at the initiative of political parties in Belgium, Portugal and Spain; or via the trade unions, as in France and the aforementioned Germany.
This could have many benefits for both companies and employees: improving work-life balance, addressing climate change by reducing transportation and energy use, decreasing unemployment, improving working conditions for those who can’t work from home, and reducing inequality. Even more, experiments to date have shown potential productivity gains.
However, it must be kept in mind that implementing the four-day week means rethinking the way we organize work. There are different formulas for such a system.
In Belgium, the weekly work schedule remains the same but is concentrated on four days: working days last nine and a half hours. Another system, the most common, is to eliminate one of the five days of the week without increasing the workload for the other days, which amounts to a reduction in working hours. This formula is often summarized by the slogan “100/80/100,” meaning 100 percent salary, 80 percent working hours, and 100 percent productivity.
Subscribe To Our Newsletter
Your weekly briefing of progressive news.