In Europe, the number of states ready to experience the 4-day working week is growing

Politics - December 21, 2022

 The Portuguese government has just decided to adopt the “short” working week for 6 months and promises that there will be no cuts in salaries

In several European countries, the 4-day working week is already a reality and the results, according to analysts, are encouraging and unexpected. Among the nations that in recent months have shown greater enthusiasm for such a revolutionary experiment, under economic and social aspects, there is Portugal where, in the coming days, a project proposal relating to the issue will be presented to the Permanent Council of Social consultation.

According to local media, the experiment, which will last about 6 months, depending on the chosen period, should take place next year and, in addition to the cut in working hours, it will also try to avoid a reduction in wages, feared by skeptics. To act as “test subject” for the experiment will be exclusively private companies, free to choose whether to join or not and without any economic and financial support from the state.

The initiative will help to understand how feasible a substantial reduction in working hours in each sector may be in the future and evaluate the results. The Portuguese government has already prepared a package of changes to the traditional working system, which will be approved in parliament and will also include a series of proposals relating to defined “hybrid” working methods to be applied to the various private professional sectors.

Already between 1999 and 2014, Portugal offered its private sector workers, a 4-day working week which included, however, a 20% salary cut and, although the choice was optional, the accessions were minimal, and the project was filed as impracticable under those conditions. The new proposal does not provide for cuts in the salary of the employee of the company who should ever join and this difference, compared to the old project, could be fundamental for the success of the experiment and the expansion of the same to other sectors.

The Portuguese Minister of Labor Ana Mendes Godinho says she is optimistic in relation to the project to reduce the working week and believes that it can be a strong message addressed to young workers, to demonstrate the attention of the state towards a future in which, work does not must necessarily take time away from different interests and passions, while allowing, however, the same standard of living given by the full salary received.

In many other European countries, the project to reduce working hours, in the face of equal or greater efficiency, is already a reality and the results seem to be positive or in any case encouraging to hope for a working methodology that is actually different from the past. In Italy, Intesa San Paolo is among the first companies to have made a concrete proposal in this regard, as part of the negotiations for the renewal of Smart Working contracts. The Banking Group led by Carlo Messina, in fact, discussed with the trade unions the possibility of having some employees work an extra hour a day, however, granting an extra day off per week without changes to the paycheck.

The proposal was formalized despite the hesitation of some unions suspicious of the fact that only part of the staff would be included in the project. The new formula, in fact, may not be adopted by all the offices but only by those who want to be part of the experiment based on their organizational and logistical needs. The employees of the branches as well as the night workers, are excluded from the project anyway, causing the discontent of the trade unions who would not want to distinguish between the various departments of the company. The project, therefore, as in other European countries, could only be followed up if it respects the demands made by the trade unions and is aimed at all employees of the banking group.


Alessandro Fiorentino