Four-day working week to be tried in Spain

Photo from AP: Achieving a better work/life balance for economic prosperity and more jobs

By Ben Wilson

Spain is  to pilot  a four-day or thirty-two hour working week without loss of pay. This is likely to involve around 200 companies.

The three-year trial will in part involve a subsidy 50 billion Euros for participating companies. This will cover 100 percent of the first year’s cost, 50 percent of the second, and 25 percent of the third. The money will come from the European Union’s Coronavirus recovery loan. It is anticipated that after this, these businesses  will be able to pay their own way.

A body representing government, unions, and employer groups will supervise the project.

Supporters say that reducing working hours will stimulate economic efficiency and  expand consumption. These, in turn, will lead to economic growth.

Delsol, a Spanish software company, introduced its own 32-hour week without loss of pay and jobs last year. It found that happier workers meant a 28 percent drop in absenteeism,  better performance, and sales rising by 20 percent.

This example is being used as justification for the pilot. After its completion in 3 years, there will be a lot of evidence about its effectiveness. If successful, it will continue and be expanded through the economy.

Major employer organisations are hostile and are calling the move “madness”. Political opponents of the government insist that the cost on the government’s finances is too great and that the damage caused by the pandemic means that this is a time to work more and not less.

They also fear the probability of tax increase at the top end to help finance the governments reforms. This project adds to it.

Spain’s economy shrank by 10.8 percent last year and has one of Europe’s highest rates of  insecure, part time, temporary, and low paid jobs.

Despite the critics, the concept of less hours to tackle existing economic problems and growing shortage of good full time and permanent jobs is gaining traction in Spain and other countries.

The 32-hour pilot is attracting a lot of international interest.

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