Sir Desmond Swayne, an MP from New Forest West, has released a statement in favor of trialing a 4-day week. “The demand for a shorter working week with no loss of pay has been on the agenda of the political left for some time,” he notes. “Most people recognise however, that it is economic suicide unless accompanied by greater productivity in the worked hours to compensate.”
As you’ll recall, the Labour Party talked about a 4-day week in 2019, and at the time the idea was ridiculed by Conservatives as a prelude to Hugo Chavez-like destruction of the economy, nuclear family, space-time continuum, etc..
Things really change in a couple years, especially with the slower-than-expected return to work compared to Europe:
Is it that the experience of lock-down and furlough have left them disinclined to return to the stress of the workplace and that they place a higher value on their time away from it?
Might a shorter working week tempt them back to work?…
A shorter working week will not suit many enterprises: Most of us will have experienced the frustration of enquiring about an important piece of work, only to discover that the key person to speak to is on leave. Adding 52 further such days per year on which that might occur with a 4-day week, would not necessarily make for greater productivity.
Nevertheless, there may be enterprises which could cope well with a shorter week. In 1976 I worked in a factory that operated a three-day week. Initially they had been forced to do so, as everyone had, during the Miner’s Strike of 1973-4. When the strike was over and the 5-day week was restored however, this particular company -having discovered just how much more productive they had become during the national emergency measure- carried on with just the 3 days working.
While the 4-day week has most recently been advocated mainly by politicians on the left side of the political spectrum (Green Party regional leader Sonia Furstenau in Canada, Rep. Mark Takano in the US), it was of course more nonpartisan: in 2008 and 2009 the two American states that have trialed a 4-day week in their public sectors were both governed by Republicans, and in 1956 Richard Nixon talked about the coming 4-day week as an illustration of good Republican management of the economy. You could craft a good small-c conservative argument for a 4-day week as being family-friendly, etc etc. I hope to see more of them.