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European politicians call for four-day week to "help economies recover from coronavirus"


European politicians are calling for a four-day week to "help economies recover from coronavirus".

  • An international coalition calls on the governments to say goodbye to a four-day week
  • A shorter work week could help economies recover from the coronavirus pandemic, promote mental health and help the environment
  • Critics argue that a four-day week can lead to a reduction in living standards

The UK, Germany, Spain and other countries are urged to introduce a four-day week to help their economies recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

An international coalition of politicians, union leaders, business leaders and activists has written to politicians across Europe urging them to call for the measure.

The letter to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and other heads of state and government argued that a four-day week would help manage the economic fallout caused by the pandemic.

It says: "For the progress of civilization and good society, the moment has now come to take the opportunity and switch to shorter working hours without loss of wages."

An international coalition of politicians, union leaders, business leaders and activists have sent a letter to governments urging them to introduce a four-day work week to help repair some of the economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Pictured: Shutters in London during a second lockdown in England to contain the spread of COVID-19

The letter also highlighted historical cases of working hours being reduced during times of crisis, including the creation of the weekend and the eight-hour working day after the Great Depression.

A shorter working week would not only promote well-being, but also help combat climate change.

Signatories include the Valencian government, which recently sponsored a four-day week, and Andrew Barnes, founder of Perpetual Guardian in New Zealand, one of the world's largest companies operating on a four-day week.

UK signatories include Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite Union, and former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

McDonnell had vowed to work in the Shadow Cabinet without losing pay.

The letter repeated similar calls for a four-day work week to tackle the pandemic-ridden economies of the left-wing think tank Autonomy and Europe's largest union, German IG Metall.

In July, a survey by Survation found that nearly two-thirds of Britons wanted Johnson to look into the possibility of a four-day post-pandemic work week.

The concept of a shorter work week has been growing in the last few years thanks to the reported benefits of a small but growing number of companies that have already rolled out a four day week and say it has increased productivity and improved employee mental health, The Guardian reports have become more attractive.

Not everyone is attracted to the idea, however, as some economists argue that fewer hours worked would lower living standards and that the Federation of British Industries would race against a four-day week last year.

The New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has spoken out in favor of a four-day working week. New Zealand is home to Perpetual Guardian, one of the world's largest companies operating four days a week [file photo]

The New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has spoken out in favor of a four-day working week. New Zealand is home to Perpetual Guardian, one of the world's largest companies operating four days a week [file photo]

Joe Ryle, an activist for the 4-day-a-week campaign in the UK, said people are currently spending "ridiculously" amounts of time working. He said working hours had "barely decreased" over the past 50 years, despite major technological advances.

"The Covid-19 pandemic has blown the world of work into the air and has provided a much-needed opportunity to rethink the way we work," he said.

"The four-day work week has hit the mainstream and it is now up to governments, business leaders and unions to work together to make this happen."

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has expressed her support for a four-day work week. The Scottish and Welsh governments have also set up commissions to investigate the idea.

In the meantime, according to the letter, successful trials have been carried out in Finland and Iceland.

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