The UK is being urged to adopt a 4 day week - but would it really boost the economy?

Leaders around the world are being urged to introduce a four day long working week in an effort to boost the global economy, which has been heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

A letter from various campaign groups and political figures addressed to Prime Minister Boris Johnson - as well as other leaders, such as German chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez - argues that reducing working hours would be highly beneficial for the economy.

What does the letter say?

The letter states, “Throughout history, shorter working hours have been used during times of crisis and economic recession as a way of sharing work more equally across the economy between the unemployed and the overemployed.

“We believe they should be deployed once again now to help deal with the economic fallout of the pandemic.

“Across the world, people are imagining a better future post Covid-19 and overwhelmingly they want a better work-life balance.

“Since the introduction of the weekend and the eight hour day after the Great Depression in the 1930s, working hours continued to gradually decrease until around the 1980s. Since then, the reduction in working hours has stalled.”

The letter explains that “despite promises, huge technological advances and automation have not ushered in a new era of more free time.”

Who signed the letter?

The letter gathered 26 signatures, including:

  • John McDonell - Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, and former Shadow Chancellor (UK)
  • Katja Kipping - Chairwoman of Die Linke (Germany)
  • Aidan Harper - New Economics Foundation (UK)
  • Charlotte Lockhart - CEO of 4 Day Week Global (New Zealand)
  • Dave Ward - General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union (UK)
  • Len McCluskey - Unite General Secretary (UK)
  • Mónica Oltra - Vice-president and Minister for Equality and Inclusive Policies of the Valencian Government (Spain)

Would a 4 day week actually help the economy?

In July, think tank Autonomy released a report which concluded that a four day week would lead to people spending more money on their days off, therefore kickstarting the UK’s economy post-Covid-19.

The report states that “there is no positive correlation between productivity and the amount of hours worked per day: working to the bone does not make ‘business sense.’”

Commenting on the report, Will Stronge, director of research at Autonomy, said, “As firms across the economy continue to suffer, bold economic strategies are required to support the economy now and forge a recovery process that priorities secure and decent work.

“Instead of propping up an already failing economy, the government could act to save jobs and create more desirable working patterns for the future.”

The open letter adds, “We have been encouraged by comments made by Jacinda Arden, Prime Minister of New Zealand, speaking in favour of a four day working week and we note that both the Scottish and Welsh governments have set up Commissions to explore the proposal further.

“There have also been positive trials in Finland and Iceland, and the Valencian government in Spain have recently backed a four day week.”