Germany explores 4-day workweek amid labor scarcity – DW – 01/31/2024 | EUROtoday

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It sounds counterintuitive: While Germany, like many international locations, struggles to seek out sufficient staff, dozens of firms are beginning an experiment that may see staff work a day much less. In February, 45 firms and organizations in Europe’s largest financial system will introduce a 4-day workweek for half a yr. Employees will proceed to obtain their full wage. The initiative is led by the consulting agency Intraprenör in collaboration with the non-profit group 4 Day Week Global (4DWG).

Advocates argue {that a} 4-day workweek would improve employee productiveness and, by consequence, assist alleviate the nation’s expert labor scarcity. Germany has a long-held popularity for industriousness and effectivity. Yet, in recent times, productiveness in Germany has fallen.

Commuters arrive into the Oculus station and mall in Manhattan, New York
Advocates argue {that a} shorter week would improve employee engagement and productivenessImage: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

What is ‘productiveness?’

This is not essentially as a result of staff are lazy. At its core, productiveness is measured by dividing financial output by hours labored. For the previous few years, excessive vitality prices have damage firms’ output, leaving them — and the nation — with a decrease productiveness rating. If firms can preserve their present output with staff working fewer hours, this could naturally result in greater productiveness ranges. But can they?

Advocates argue sure. Employees who work 4 days as an alternative of 5 are extra motivated and, due to this fact, extra productive, they are saying. This mannequin might additionally probably draw extra individuals into the workforce by participating those that aren’t prepared to work 5 days every week, serving to to alleviate the dearth of labor.

Business persons in the park sit on the grass in the park
Participants in comparable experiments in different international locations reported decrease stress ranges with a 4-day workweekImage: Khakimullin Aleksandr D9/Zoonar/image alliance

Workers are much less confused with shorter week

The idea has already been put to the check exterior of Germany. Since 2019, 4DWG has been working pilot applications throughout the globe — from the UK and South Africa to Australia, Ireland, and the US. Over 500 firms have participated in a trial run, and early outcomes appear to favor a shorter workweek.

Looking at an experiment involving almost 3,000 staff within the UK, researchers from Cambridge and Boston discovered that just about 40% of contributors reported feeling much less confused after the experiment and that the variety of resignations decreased by 57%.

Doctors in Berlin protest outside a hospital for better working conditions, including a shorter week
Workers in Germany took 20 sicks days on common in 2023 Image: Fabian Sommer/dpa/image alliance

€26 billion price of sick days

Sick days additionally decreased by two-thirds. Recent information from the German medical insurance firm DAK reveals that staff in Germany took 20 sick days on common final yr. That means illness-related absences triggered an general actual revenue lack of €26 billion ($28 billion) in Germany in 2023, the German Association of Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (VFA) stated. This would have pushed down financial output by 0.8 share factors.

Crucially, within the UK experiment, researchers additionally noticed a mean income improve of round 1.4% in 56 out of 61 collaborating firms. The majority expressed a want to keep up the 4-day workweek past the check part.

4-day workweek: A mannequin for the long run?

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Creative work might undergo, researchers say

Can it work in Germany, too? Labor market professional Enzo Weber is not so positive. He conducts analysis on the University of Regensburg and the Institute for Employment Research and has some issues with the outcomes of the earlier pilot initiatives.

Only firms whose work is suited to a 4-day workweek would apply for such an experiment, he informed DW. The outcomes, due to this fact, cannot be taken as making use of to the financial system as an entire.

Weber additionally doubts the constructive outcomes as a result of lowering working hours would doubtless result in extra concentrated work. Fewer hours would imply successful to social and artistic components of labor. Here the implications would not be instantly felt, particularly not in research designed to solely final six months.

A nurse takes care of a COVID-19 patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit of the university hospital (Universitaetsklinikum) in Essen, western Germany
A 4-day workweek mannequin can be tough to use to jobs like well being care, some economists sayImage: Ina Fassbender/AFP/Getty Images

Model will not apply to many industries

Other skeptics level to the problem of measuring productiveness. Reduced working hours might result in structural adjustments which have a better impact on productiveness than worker engagement. Holger Schäfer, a researcher at Cologne’s German Economic Institute (IW), says it is a fantasy to count on a 25% improve in productiveness in trade for a 20% discount in working hours.

Economist Bernd Fitzenberg of Germany’s Institute for Employment Research (IAB) says a 4-day week might imply greater prices for firms if “spreading working hours over just four days is not offset by productivity gains.”

“It becomes challenging in fields where services have to be provided in the here and now, at fixed times, for customers, or people who are being cared for,” he informed DW, including {that a} 4-day week will, due to this fact, be harder to implement in fields like nursing, safety companies, or transportation. “If we were to rigidly implement such a regulation across all industries in the same way, it could hurt competitiveness.”

Despite the counterarguments, the 4-day workweek nonetheless holds an attraction, even for well-established industrial gamers. German commerce union IG Metall has been advocating for shorter working hours for a while. In the metal trade, for instance, solely 35 hours per week are at the moment labored.

Edited by: Ashutosh Pandey