Many places already have a shorter working week

Back from my long summer break to find New Economics Foundation (NEF) announcing that “the working hours debate is now well and truly mainstream”. It must be time to get stuck in again…

NEF have found that there are a whole host of examples of experiments in shorter or different working hours from around the world. For example:

  • Gothenburg, Sweden is trialling a 30 hour week for public sector workers – without reducing their pay. This is arranged as five six-hour days.
  • Staff working for Chicago software company 37signals do a 32 hour four day week for six months of the year. This company also offers staff ‘a month on your own’ for them to develop their own ideas.
  • Germany has run a policy of short-time work through the recession, to allow employers to share available work between employees. Firms could cut working time by up to 50% with the government then reimbursing up to two thirds of lost wages.
  • Finland has for decades operated a paid leave scheme, where employees can take up to a year’s leave, funded by a mix of employee, employer and state, and an unemployed person fills the role temporarily, gaining skills and experience. The leaver-taker receives a higher allowance if they use the time to do vocational training.

NEF are building a database of such examples; read the full blog on their findings, Around the world in a shorter working week.

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