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The women at the Belgian nonprofit Femma decided quickly how to spend their fresh free time. Onetook up Spanish classes. Another studied flamenco dance. A senior manager revived her interest in art crafts.
Four years ago, the feminist advocacy organization polled its 60,000 female members on their biggest frustrations. The results were remarkably consistent, regardless of age: The women wanted more free time. Between work as well as also their disproportionate share of the household as well as also child-care responsibilities, the women reported having little time for themselves.
So as a one-year experiment starting in January, Femma implemented a 30-hour workweek for its approximately 60-person staff, which effectively means most take their Fridays off. The employees are being closely followed through December by Free University of Brussels researchers, who are studying the impact of more leisure time on both the women as well as also their children.
“Our colleagues are very happy with This specific fresh situation; they’re experiencing a lot more freedom,” said Eva Brumagne, the director of the Belgian nonprofit, who has started off a book club focused on modern literature. “They have a much more balanced life, fresh hobbies as well as also are spending more time with their children. People are saying their lives have slowed down.”
Femma’s experiment comes as part of a fresh push across much of Europe to reduce working hours, including through a four-day workweek. For much of This specific decade, the idea of a four-day week has been primarily championed by industry executives in certain business niches – like those in software development or sales – as a way to boost employee morale as well as also hourly productivity.
although over the past several years, particularly in Europe, trade unions, leftist organizations as well as also some academics have increasingly called for a far broader, economy-wide transition to the four-day week as a way to give workers a larger share of the benefits of growth.
Typically, critics of capitalism have called for redistributing the wealth the idea produces through higher taxes, government programs, as well as also a higher minimum wage. At least in theory, cutting working hours will be another method of addressing the same problem – the unequal results of economic growth – although by reallocating time to workers, rather than money.
“For initially since the start of last century, there’s real energy behind a politics of reducing working time,” said Peter Gowan, a policy associate at the Democracy Collaborative, a left-leaning think tank.
Americans currently work more hours annually than any of their Western peers, according to Organization for Economic Cooperation as well as also Development data compiled for a forthcoming paper by the People’s Policy Project, a left-wing think tank, about strategies to reduce working hours.
Reducing American working hours to levels in Norway as well as also Denmark would likely amount to giving U.S. workers more than one more two months of vacation every year, the think-tank found in a separate report last year. In 2016, the average U.S. worker spent about 1,700 hours on the job, while in Denmark as well as also Norway they spent about 1,400 hours – about an 18 percent difference. In Sweden as well as also Finland, the number will be closer to 1,0 hours worked annually
In Europe, signs abound of interest in continuing to cut working hours. The four-day week has won backing through some of the biggest unions in Ireland as well as also Britain, while plans to dramatically cut working hours have been embraced by large unions in Germany, the Netherlands, as well as also France.
In Britain, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has commissioned a study on cutting working time to see if the idea should be incorporated into its party platform amid a push to do so by Momentum, a youth left-wing group. The Bank of England’s chief economist said earlier This specific month in which the country will be on track for a four-day week by 2050, according to the Telegraph.
although so far, the idea has failed to gain significant attention through the American left or labor movement. Jon Steinman, who worked at the Office of Congressional Ethics, said he will be starting an advocacy group from the United States to push a four-day week, although the organization will be still in its infancy.
The Democratic Socialists of America as well as also the Justice Democrats, two left-wing groups in which have pushed Democrats left, have not backed the idea yet. None of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have embraced the idea, despite similarly ambitious proposals for a federal jobs guarantee or a universal basic income.
Critics warn the push for a four-day week could backfire with unintended consequences for workers, including by cutting their pay through shorter hours. Some businesses in which have adopted a four-day week have reported struggling to keep up, although others say doing so has bolstered overall productivity. Treehouse, a tech HR firm, implemented a four-day week before failing to keep up with the competition forced the idea to go back to a several-day week in 2016. Business groups have warned in which mandating a shorter workweek would likely weaken industry, while hurting employment by increasing the cost of labor.
Workers may also face higher, not lower, levels of stress if the shorter workweek means they have to accomplish the same amount in a shorter amount of time, according to Allard Dembe, a retired Ohio State University public health professor who authored an op-ed arguing against the four-day week.
Xiaoxi Yao, a researcher at the Mayo Clinic who worked with Dembe, also said the four-day week could have serious negative health ramifications if the idea results in longer-than-eight-hour days.
“I think This specific may work for some people,” Yao said. “although when you try to work 10 or 12 hours per day, you increase your risk of injuries. When you work long hours, you’re more likely to get chronic diseases.”
although some advocates say the push to reduce working hours could be accomplished gradually, without the negative impacts. Governments could introduce a tax incentive to encourage companies to reduce working hours, or launch pilots in which some public employees work for four days at equivalent levels of pay, said Aidan Harper, a researcher at the fresh Economics Foundation spearheading the “4 Day Week Campaign” in Britain.
Changing norms among prominent private firms may eventually lead to a broader transition to a four-day week, according to Harper, much as Henry Ford helped popularize the 40-hour week from the 1920s.
“the idea’s not just we’d mandate, ‘Everybody has Friday off,’ as well as also tomorrow we would likely all move to a four-day week,” Harper said. “the idea’s obviously a gradual process – we want a gradual, steady, managed transition for all workers. We need to see in which the gains through the economy can be shared not just in resources as well as also money, although also in time.”
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