In the last few days I read several articles (like this one in Quartz, this one in the Daily Mail, and this one in the Guardian) proclaiming that the Finnish government was planning to implement a 4-day workweek.
The new Prime Minister, Sanna Marin, has spoken favorably about 4-day weeks in the past, and somehow those remarks morphed into “Finland is adopting a 4-day week!”
I was curious about this because I didn’t see any sourcing about new legislation, or other comments by labor unions, right-wing think tanks saying that this would be the end of civilization, etc.
Now, the Finnish government has released a statement (via Twitter, of course, which is how all government communications seem to happen these days) that no, that’s not happening:
In the Finnish Government´s program there is no mention about 4-day week. Issue is not on the Finnish Government’s agenda. PM @marinsanna envisioned idea briefly in a panel discussion last August while she was the Minister of Transport, and there hasn’t been any recent activity.
— Finnish Government (@FinGovernment) January 7, 2020
The idea of drastically shorter working hours was briefly touched on by Marin in August, months before she was made Finnish prime minister in December. But the government now wants to make clear that a four-day week isn’t on the agenda and “there hasn’t been any recent activity” on the topic, according to a Twitter update on Tuesday.
Marin first discussed the idea during a panel debate at the Social Democratic Party’s 120th anniversary event last summer, where speakers took stock of the movement’s achievements — including the eight-hour work day — and envisioned future causes. The political movement has struggled to find relevance among younger voters, as pensioners become a more dominant group among its base of supporters.
News Now Finland breaks down how the story spread from Marin’s summer remarks to a global story.
The story appears to have spread more widely in the UK, maybe because the UK Labour Party talked about a 4-day week in the last election.
Personally, I struggle a bit with the 4-day week as part of political platforms. For one thing, the business owners I interview in my book are all over the political map: a couple are Scottish nationalists (or independence-curious), a couple are classic Republicans, but most are probably best described as enlightened petit bourgeois.
And it’s also not the case that proposals for a 4-day week are naturally or exclusively the province of the political left. While unions have spent a LONG time making the case for working hours reductions, you can imagine a small-c conservative argument for 4-day weeks based about innovation, free enterprise, making workers more entrepreneurial, having more time for church and family and community, etc. (You could even make a far-right argument for a society and economy that combined maximalist positions against immigration, encouragement of high childbirth rates for the “right” people, environmental restoration, etc., that put a 4-day week at its center, but I won’t.)
And the same policy proposals can be left- or right-wing in different countries: just think about how American and British conservatives talk about a “national health service.”
Mainly, though, I think the 4-day week isn’t a left-wing idea or a right-wing idea. I think it’s a good idea.
So while it’s nice that a political leader proposing a 4-day week seems plausible to journalists now, it’s happened… yet.