Two very different proposals for 4-day weeks have recently been floated in Spain and India.
Last year, the Spanish party Más País got the government to agree to fund a three-year, €50 million 4-day week trial, and they’re edging closer to actually launching it. According to an article in the Irish Times,
While the exact details of the pilot will be hashed out with the government, his party has proposed a three-year, €50 million project that would allow companies to trial reduced hours with minimal risk. The costs of a company’s foray into the four-day work week, for example, could be covered at 100 per cent the first year, 50 per cent the second year and 33 per cent the third year.
“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….
Mr Tejero estimated that the pilot could get under way as early as autumn, ushering in the first national initiative to reduce working hours since France began moving towards capping the work week at 35 hours in 1998.
The Washington Post adds,
Although the push for a four-day workweek was already gaining support before the pandemic, the radical upending of office life has made the idea seem more viable to politicians around the world. So has the fact that furlough programs mean many employees are already being paid to work fewer hours a week — or not at all.
Also, Euronews ran a segment about the trial, featuring Barcelona Time Use Initiative researcher Arianda Güell:
In India, meanwhile, the government has proposed offering employers the option of a 4-day week– but this 4-day week would look very different, as the Economics Times reports:
Currently, employers have to take consent of the government to reduce the number of work days in a week which has been fixed at 48 hours for a work week of six days and eight hours of work each day.
The labour ministry will give flexibility to employers to enable four-days a week of work with a ceiling of 48 hours in a week.
An article on Livemint explains it this way:
The weekly 48-hour work limit will stay but employers will be able to deploy people on four, 12-hour workdays per week; or five, around 10-hour days; or six, eight-hour days, labour secretary Apurva Chandra told reporters on Monday.
“We are not forcing employees or employers. It gives flexibility. It’s an enabling provision in sync with the changing work culture,” Chandra said.
So what the Indian government is exploring is quite different from Spain: they’re talking about keeping the 48-hour workweek, but allowing companies to spread the work over four days rather than five or six.
I think that the Spanish proposal is by far the more interesting and forward-looking of the two, but it needs to be designed well in order to yield results that will convince skeptics. That means two things: showing companies that participate how they can become more productive with their time, and gathering data that yields clear signals about the impact of shorter hours on companies and employees.