These countries make progress on the 4-day working week
By ETX Daily Up
July 12, 2021
The world’s largest pilot project testing the four-day week proved successful in Iceland, but what about other countries?
Iceland has just completed the world’s largest pilot project testing the four-day week, involving more than 2,000 workers. This experience proved fruitful and reignited the debate around a measure long advocated as a means of increasing the well-being and productivity of employees. But what is the situation in other countries?
Work less, but better, moving to a four-day week. The idea may not be new, but it has been in the news again in recent days, with all eyes on Iceland. This northern country has just unveiled the results of a large pilot study conducted between 2015 and 2019 among 1% of the Icelandic population. The idea was to propose a reduction in working time – to 35-36 hours per week – while keeping the same salary.
This program was set up by the British and Icelandic think tanks Autonomy and the Association for Sustainability and Democracy (Alda), and involved 2,500 people living in Iceland and working in the public sector (schools, hospitals, social services, etc.).
Four years later, the experiment proved to be largely successful, with the researchers who conducted the study reporting an increased rate of productivity and well-being among most of the workers who participated in it. The trial even had beneficial effects for the general population. According to the two think tanks behind the study, 86% of the Icelandic workforce was able to benefit from new agreements signed between 2019 and 2021, allowing more flexible work and reduced hours.
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Spain follows Iceland’s example
In view of these more than satisfactory results of the largest trial in the world of the four-day week, there is every reason to be tempted. The idea has been discussed and debated for several decades. But how far have other countries gone to implement it?
While some companies around the world have been operating a four-day week for some time, no country has yet generalized the practice nationwide. However, the pandemic seems to have changed that. The idea came back to the fore in Germany in 2020, for example, when several companies adopted a four-day week to avoid layoffs during the pandemic.
Spain, meanwhile, is following in Iceland’s footsteps and will launch a similar pilot project this fall, at the initiative of the left-wing Mas Pais party. Even though it is still in its early stages, we already know that the project could involve 3,000 to 6,000 Spanish workers over a period of three years, and funding of some 50 million euros. About 200 companies are expected and an assessment of productivity and employee well-being is scheduled after one year.
The idea is also gaining ground in the UK. In 2020, various parties across the country (including the opposition Labor Party) signed a motion calling on the government to set up a commission to study the proposal.
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As for France, the four-day week is far from being generalized, even if a law passed in 1996 allows companies to implement it. On the political scene, it is still on the left that the idea is defended, in particular by the MEP Pierre Larrouturou, founder of the Nouvelle Donne party and author of a book in 1999 on the subject (For the four day week published by Éditions La Découverte).
However, several companies in France have been operating a four-day week for some time. These include Welcome To The Jungle (Paris), Yprema (Ile-de-France) and Love Radius (PACA) and, more recently, the IT group LDLC (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes).
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