Jacinda Ardern has become the first world leader to endorse the idea of a four-day working week. The New Zealand prime minister said flexible working options could boost post-Covid economic recovery while helping workers to manage their work-life balance.
Specifically, Ardern said domestic tourism would be boosted if people had more time to travel. Tourism took a huge hit in many countries – including Ireland and New Zealand – after borders were effectively closed.
Mrs Ardern said the four-day week was ultimately a decision for employers and employees. But she said the pandemic had proved that people can work flexibility at home, while maintaining productivity levels. She strongly encouraged employers to consider permanent reductions in working time.
The New Zealand premier has added her voice to those of researchers who cite flexible working time as a tool for economic recovery. A shorter working week would also help employees become happier and more productive.
Andrew Barnes, whose New Zealand company Perpetual Guardian successfully transitioned to a four-day week in 2018, said a shorter working week could also provide opportunities to share work and create time for retraining and upskilling at a time when tens of thousands of workers had lost their jobs.
Fórsa general secretary Kevin Callinan also welcomed the announcement. “The lockdown has opened our eyes to new ways of looking at working time and maintaining productivity. A better balance between work and family life is possible, but we must also be aware of the danger of an 'always on' culture, where workers don’t get the chance to switch off properly.
“The four-day week can be a vehicle to meet these challenges, and greater leisure time could provide a crucial domestic stimulus to our own tourism and related sectors," he said.
Last year, Fórsa pioneered the creation of Four-Day Week Ireland, a coalition of businesses, trade unions, environmentalists, academics and NGOs established to campaign for shorter working time in all sectors of the economy.
The initiative is the Irish leg of an international campaign to establish a four-day week without reductions in pay or productivity.
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