Belgium: four days at work, but doing more hours in each day

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The acceleration was given by the pandemic, but companies and states have been studying a different management of working time for some time. The Belgium he is the last to carry out his proposal. The idea of ​​the Belgian government is to decrease the working days: from 5 to 4. At the same time, however, the individual working days are lengthening: from the current seven and a half hours to nine and a half hours.

The week gets shorter, the days get longer in the package of laws for the reform of the labor market.

The proposal is from the liberals of Prime Minister Alexander de Croo and parliament, government, businesses and trade unions are discussing it. The choice is voluntary and leaves the salary unchanged.

The positive aspects indicated by those who propose the law are personal and general. One less day at work would help the environment by reducing traffic due to commuting. For workers it would bring a better balance between private and professional life and reduce the risk of burnout.

I am skeptical labor unions which do not find benefits in a reform that does not reduce the number of hours worked, but only changes the distribution, increasing the risk of accidents at work by making longer hours. For parents of school-age children, it would be even worse to have a day with more time away from home. Nine and a half hours would be much more than those indicated in international conventions on working time.

For years the short week has been experimented in Spain and in Iceland. The four-day working week was a notable success in Reykjavík. The evidence led many public sector workers to decrease their working hours between 2015 and 2019. During this period, workers were paid the same for fewer hours worked. Productivity remained unchanged or increased in most workplaces. Spain is running a pilot project with 200 companies that will experience the four-day week for three years.

In these cases, however, the number of hours worked always decreases with the shortening of the working week. For many experts it is the only way to truly improve the quality of life of workers. Many are also ready for a pay cut in order to work fewer hours. There Spanish Desigual announced that 86% of workers said yes to a referendum for a new four-day working week, three in the presence and one in smart working, with a reduction in hours of 13.5% and a cut in envelope pay 6.5%.

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