Spain will trial FOUR-DAY working week in pilot scheme with companies

Spain will trial FOUR-DAY working week after government agrees to launch pilot scheme with a number of companies

  • Interested companies will be able to take part in the government scheme, the specific details of which are still to be agreed
  • A number of Spanish companies have independently adopted a four-day working week and have reported positive results
  •  The idea of the four-day working week has gained popularity among developed nations with supporters saying it is beneficial to productivity and mental health
  • Detractors argue that working less will make it more difficult for economies to recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic 

Spain is set to trial a four-day working week after the government agreed to launch a pilot project among interested companies. 

In December, deputy prime minister Pablo Iglesias confirmed that the government was looking into the idea, saying that reducing the number of working hours in a week to 32, without loss of pay would ‘undoubtedly’ lead to more jobs. 

Más País, a small leftwing Spanish party, celebrated the news of the pilot scheme on Twitter, with member Iñigo Errejón saying the four-day work week was ‘an idea whose time has come’.

‘Spain is one of the countries where workers put in more hours than the European average. But we’re not among the most productive countries,’ Errejón said.

‘I maintain that working more hours does not mean working better.’   

Errejón previously said that now was the perfect opportunity to trial the four-day working week as Spain rebuilds its economy following the strain of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Más País, a small leftwing Spanish party, celebrated the news of the pilot scheme on Twitter, with member Iñigo Errejón (pictured) saying the four-day work week was ‘an idea whose time has come’ [File photo]

The idea of a four-day work week has gained popularity in several developed countries as a way to increase productivity, improve workers’ mental health and even fight climate change. 

In November, an international coalition of politicians, trade union leaders, business chiefs and campaigners wrote to politicians across Europe, urging them to demand the measure in response to the economic damage wrought by the coronavirus. 

In Spain, a small number of companies have already independently adopted a four-day working week, reportedly leading to an increase in productivity and the Valencian government introduced a similar proposal in its budget last year.

The exact details of the Spanish pilot are yet to be agreed but Más País have proposed a three-year €50m ($42.8m) project that would allow companies to trial reduced hours, The Guardian reported. 

The proposal would see companies trial the scheme at minimal risk, with costs covered at 100 per cent for the first year, falling to 50 per cent for the second year and 33 per cent for the third. 

‘With these figures, we calculate that we could have around 200 companies participate, with a total of anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 workers,’ said Héctor Tejero of Más País. ‘The only red lines are that we want to see a true reduction of working hours and no loss of salary or jobs.’

The party has also suggested that the pilot be overseen by a panel of experts, including representatives from governments, unions and business lobbies.

Supporters of the four-day working week say it boosts productivity, while being friendlier to the environment and workers’ mental health than the five-day week [Stock photo]

Once underway, the scheme would be one of the first initiatives to reduce working hours since France began moving towards capping the work week at 35 hours in 1998.  

For its part, Spain was one of the first countries in western Europe to adopt the eight-hour workday after a 44-day strike in Barcelona in 1919.

Changes to work patterns are often introduced at times of economic crisis – for example the introduction of the weekend and the 40-hour working week during The Great Depression – but supporters say a shorter working week has benefits beyond the economic.

In December, Business Psychologist Pedro Sánchez told 20minutos that having an additional day off is better for people’s mental health as it allows them to ‘dedicate more time to personal and family life’.

Others have noted that losing a day of work would be beneficial to the environment as fewer people would be commuting and office buildings would not need to be lit, heated or cooled. 

But not everyone supports the idea. Some economists have argued that working fewer hours would decrease the standard of living and the leader of one of Spain’s main business associations described it as ‘madness’.

‘Getting out of this crisis requires more work, not less,’ Ricardo Mur of CEOE told a forum in December, noting that Spain has suffered its worst recession since the civil war. 

Elsewhere in the world, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has voiced support for a four-day working week and the Scottish and Welsh governments have also set up commissions to explore the idea. Successful trials have already been run in Iceland.

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