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Iceland lesson: the country is moving towards 4 working days a week - Economy

Iceland lesson: the country is moving towards 4 working days a week – Economy

Over the past few decades, many academics have argued that working one day less would have a disruptive effect on countries’ economies and that four-day weeks would not be possible.

a study From Britain’s Autonomy, between 2015 and 2019, he went after a different answer, citing the effects of working fewer hours on 2,500 Icelandic employees (1% of that country’s active population), spread across areas such as education, health, social security or administrative jobs. .

Why Iceland?

First, because the active population accounts for 87% of the total population (first place in the OECD rating). Second, because Icelanders on average work 44 hours a week (the third highest Eurostat figure). And finally, because Icelanders work, on average, 47, which is the highest rate in Europe. A great case study, isn’t it?

The experiment involved reducing the 40-hour workweek to 35-36 hours, over 5 years, without cutting wages, and realizing the impact on workers’ productivity and overall well-being, productivity was not harmed and, in many cases, grew thanks to the increased welfare of workers who now have:

  • More time you spend with family, friends and partners, which reduces stress in your relationships;
  • more time for themselves, spend on hobbies, or just rest;
  • More time to do chores, making more quality time for the weekend.

The study also showed that the well-being of the people around the participants (whether they belonged to the active population or not) significantly improved.

The success of this initiative has led to the fact that in the past two years, most Icelandic companies have given their workers the opportunity to take advantage of shorter weekly working hours, and that in June of this year, 86% of the working population was already working. (or about to) work that way and without a salary cut.

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For physical and mental health

The Icelandic study gives the international community some hope for the future of work, offering a possible way to reduce the associated high stress (also known as fatigue), which will become very common during a pandemic. But more than coming to this conclusion, he proves that it is possible to do so without compromising productivity, and dismantles the idea that working more is directly related to working better.

Will Strong, the expert who led the team that conducted this investigation, He told the BBC That “this study shows that the world’s largest test of a shorter working week in the public sector has been, in all respects, an overwhelming success.” Is it a sign that in the near future we might have four days in weeks?

What are we waiting for?

If Iceland proves that it is possible to work less and produce the same (or more), then apply the same to Portugal, right? Not right. The Icelandic case sounds simple but has its own nuances. Let’s look at some numbers that help us understand the context in which this study took place. In Iceland:

  • 196,700 people work, aged 15-64, which is 87% of the population (the highest rate in the OECD);
  • Only 3.4% of the working population is unemployed (the sixth lowest rate in the OECD);
  • The per capita GDP is more than 39,000 euros. (in Portugal, the same value does not reach 20 thousand euros);
  • The working life is about 47 years (the longest in the EU).
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Having said that, it remains for us to ask, are we capable of doing the same? Reducing coffee breaks is not enough to save time. Because there are a number of factors related to the politics of each country and the social fabric, which make it possible or not to adopt this business model.

However, there are some countries/organizations abroad that have already started trying to follow the example of Iceland, at a time when remote work during the pandemic has led to a rethink of strategies to reconcile personal and professional life:

  • Companies in Spain and Japan are testing the roughly 32-hour workweek due to the challenges brought about by the coronavirus;
  • report It was done in the UK and proposed to reduce working hours, with the aim of reducing the carbon footprint;
  • Social media management platform Buffer launched last year to implement the four-day week;
  • US crowdfunding platform Kickstarter wants to test a similar solution for Iceland in 2022;
  • Unilever is testing a 20% reduction in working hours in New Zealand without salary cuts.

Portugal may one day be another point on this list. Until then, we walk Step by Step.

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