Can Germany afford a 4-day workweek? – DW – 09/22/2023 | EUROtoday

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.

According to the newest figures from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Germans labored a mean of 1,349 hours per employed particular person in 2021. The OECD common was 1,716 hours, whereas Greeks labored 1,872 hours per yr.

Despite Germans placing in fewer hours a yr, the nation’s highly effective metalworkers’ union IG Metall not too long ago got here up with a proposal pushing for a fair shorter workweek for its members: solely 4 days a week.

Naturally, and at totally compensated wages, any employee would help such a proposal. But in occasions of a slowing German economic system and an acute scarcity of expert employees, should not working extra quite than much less be the order of the day in Germany?

Lazy Germans?

The OECD itself has admitted that its figures are skewed, and as a consequence of totally different reporting requirements and time references, cannot actually be in contrast. Also, what folks in numerous international locations take into account as working hours could not essentially be the identical, it mentioned in its report.

Labor market professional Enzo Weber from the Institute of Employment Research (IAB) says the OECD’s figures are based mostly to a massive extent on public surveys, that means the outcomes vastly rely upon the questions being requested and in what order.

“What people understand of working hours isn’t necessarily everywhere the same,” he advised DW, including that OECD figures are extra meant as an example labor market developments quite than make comparisons.

Weber famous, for instance, that the labor pressure participation price of German girls is considerably greater than in different international locations. However provided that roughly half of the ladies work part-time, this could decrease the common annual working hours per particular person. “That doesn’t mean that Germans work less, quite the contrary. More work is being done because these women would not even be included in the statistics,” mentioned Weber.

A picture of a women working with a computer from home and a child sitting next to her
A lot of working moms are part-time employed knocking down Germany’s working hours common per particular personImage: Julian Stratenschulte/dpa/image alliance

Productivity is what issues

The variety of hours folks spend at work can’t be seen as remoted from what they’re doing there and the way productive they’re of their jobs. German employees are doing a lot better in a productiveness rating, Weber mentioned, regardless that the “glory days” of Germany being a productiveness chief are lengthy gone.

Currently, the productiveness price is falling once more, he mentioned, which nevertheless is not the results of German employees being lazier than final yr.

Calculating productiveness is a complicated train, however mainly divides output by the hours labored. Weber attributes the current decline to the vitality disaster. Despite the upper prices, German corporations are holding their workforces totally employed to keep away from future shortages. As a consequence, working hours in complete stay steady whereas output shrinks as a consequence of greater vitality prices.

Another purpose for falling German productiveness is the nation’s big low-wage sector, the place productiveness is usually not very excessive.

4-day workweek a productiveness booster?

A key query within the present debate about a 4-day workweek is whether or not or not it might enhance productiveness amid a scarcity of expert labor. Proponents argue that shorter hours could enhance the motivation of employees and subsequently make them extra productive. Additionally, they are saying this might deliver folks into the workforce who are usually not keen to work 5 days a week, ensuing within the availability of extra expert employees.

Since 2019, the nonprofit group 4 Day Week Global (4DWG) has organized pilot packages in international locations just like the UK, South Africa, Australia, Ireland, and the United States. More than 500 corporations have participated in these packages, in keeping with the New Zealand-based NGO. Results appear to substantiate the hopes of optimistic results.

However, reactions amongst German employees to 4-day workweek plans are combined, in keeping with a survey carried out by Germany’s commerce union-affiliated Hans-Böckler Foundation.

About 73% of the employees surveyed mentioned they need a 4-day workweek however provided that their pay stays the identical. Some 8% would settle for lowered remuneration, and 17% rejected shorter working time altogether.

4-day workweek: A mannequin for the longer term?

To view this video please allow JavaScript, and take into account upgrading to a net browser that helps HTML5 video

Inconclusive research

In Germany, a 4-day workweek program was simply launched on September 21 inviting corporations to use for a 6-month check interval. The program is run by the German consulting company Intreprenör in collaboration with 4DWG.

Enzo Weber argues the design of the pilot already highlights the principle downside with such initiatives. Only corporations with optimistic views of a shortened workweek would take part, he mentioned, not representing the massive majority of companies.

Furthermore, not solely is working time lowered, however processes and group are additionally modified within the corporations taking part. Any enhance in productiveness, subsequently, could not essentially be causally linked to the shorter working hours, mentioned Weber.

The IAB labor market professional additionally questions optimistic outcomes as a result of lowering the workweek by at some point would possible enhance staff’ each day workload and shorten communication and teamwork. “Companies usually don’t feel the consequences immediately but rather in the medium term,” mentioned Weber. He pointed to the 6-month undertaking design which was too quick.

For Holger Schäfer, introducing a 4-day workweek is counterproductive from a macroeconomic perspective. The economist from the Institute of the German Economy (IW Cologne) advised DW that providing shorter hours may assist a firm to “poach scarce workers from competitors” however wouldn’t assist the economic system as a entire. “If all companies reduce working hours, it ultimately results in a working hour deficit,” he mentioned.

Schäfer argued there is no such thing as a proof that lowering working hours may considerably enhance productiveness. “Reducing the work week from five to four days corresponds to a 20% reduction in working hours. To compensate for the resulting production loss would require a productivity boost by 25%, which is unrealistic.”

A picture of roofers laying tiles on a roof
Skilled employees are particularly scarce in Germany and could also be attracted by a 4-day workweekImage: Michael Reichel/dpa/image alliance

‘X-Day Work Week’

Nevertheless, introducing a 4-day work week in some sectors of the economic system could make sense, says Jörg Dittrich, the president of the German Confederation of Skilled Crafts and Small Businesses (ZDH).

Craft companies may make themselves extra engaging to certified employees, he advised DW. However, he admitted that not all crafts could profit. He rejected broad-based nationwide regulation saying it could solely imply further paperwork for corporations.

Enzo Weber additionally advocates towards a authorized entitlement and for particular person options beneath a plan he calls X-Day Work Week. Weber’s plan is supported by Germany’s small- and medium-sized corporations. Calling for particular person company-based options, the sector’s foyer group BVMW flatly rejects any authorities intervention that proposes much less working time at full pay.

Despite the criticism, the German metalworkers’ union IG Metal is planning to push forward with its 4-day work scheme within the upcoming wage negotiations for metal employees, mentioned union boss Knut Giesler — after all, together with with full wage compensation.

This article was initially written in German.