Time to work less?

To get out of the economic crisis there are two roads. The first is to work harder to get businesses big or small. Thousands of people await the reactivation of companies to getting a job formal.

The second way is to work less, since if the pandemic has led us to something, it is to reflect on the camino that the world is following, very focused on consumption, on production on a large scale, in the depredation of the planet and its consequences on climate change. Confinement and teleworking have helped to value time with family and friends, which in the end is what should matter.

The convenience of working more or less hours has generated a debate in the world political Y business for several years, but now it becomes crucial due to the effects of the pandemic at work.

Since the end of last year, in the political agenda In European countries, the task of rethinking work patterns was included. UKGermany, Spain and other countries should adopt a four-day week to help their economies recover from the coronavirus pandemic, said former British Foreign Minister John McDonnell and a group of left-wing politicians and union leaders from Europe.

A four-day week would help deal with the economic consequences of the pandemic, according to a letter sent to Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and other leaders, according to the diario The Guardian, last November.

That document highlights the long history of workers agreeing to cut hours to save jobs, but also the “opportunity” to rethink work patterns and help reduce energy use, which could help address the current climate crisis.

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John McDonnell had already launched that proposal in September 2019, at the annual conference of the Labor Party. “We should work to live, not live to work. As society gets richer, we can spend fewer hours at work. ”

In addition, “shorter working hours have been used during times of economic crisis and recession as a way to share work more equitably across the economy between the unemployed and the over-employed,” the group wrote.

Proponents believe that now is the time to seize the opportunity and “move towards shorter working hours without loss of pay.”

The proposal for a four-day week has interested a small but growing number of companies, who believe it increases productivity and improves the mental health of employees. workers.

That was proven by the technology giant Microsoft in Japan, where he launched a project called Work-Life Choice Challenge Summer 2019. In August of that year, he gave his 2,300 employees five Fridays in a row without reducing their salary. The firm also set a limit on the duration of the meetings – a maximum of 30 minutes – and staff were encouraged to do them ‘online’ instead of in person. The result was an increase in sales of almost 40% in that month.

A previous experiment was carried out by the New Zealand company Perpetual Guardian, an advisor on issues of family wealth planning and financial investments, which implemented the four-day work week in 2018. Got three positive results: the number of employees satisfied with their reconciliation of family and personal life increased 24%, work stress decreased 7% and satisfaction with their work increased 5%.

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Encouraged by this background, the multinational Unilever reported last December that it began a project in New Zealand to reduce the work week to four days, without lowering the salary of employees. The plan will last one year, with the 81 employees of the firm. “The old ways of working are obsolete,” Nick Bangs, managing director of Unilever New Zealand. In this country, Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern is pushing for more flexible ways of working in the pandemic.

One skeptic of these proposals is economic historian Robert Skidelsky, who believes that imposing a four-day work week “is neither realistic nor desirable.” In a report published in September 2020 on the UK Labor Party’s proposal, Skidelsky pointed out that such policies would not be successful. And he cited the example of France, which introduced a weekly limit of 35 hours of work in 1998. “The evidence is that, after a brief impact effect, the French Legislation was rendered largely ineffective due to an accumulation of exceptions and loopholes. .

David Spencer, professor of economics at the English University of Leeds, he believes that the proposed four-day work week can work across sectors. However, it requires workers to have the necessary bargaining power, which means strengthening unions. It is also necessary to convince companies of the economic benefits of a shorter week and stop accepting that long hours are normal.

Ultimately, what is being debated is a new economy and a new way of living.


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