In Belgium, Spain or Iceland… What do the tests give around the four-day week?

Work less to live better. This is how we could sum up, in a formula à la Nicolas Sarkozy, the idea of ​​the four-day working week which is making its way almost everywhere in Europe. In Belgium, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced a reform project on Tuesday, paving the way for the possibility of working four days instead of five. In Spain, Iceland and Germany, similar experiments have emerged in recent years. Who did what ? With what result? Where is the debate in France? 20 minutes make the point.

The four-day week, tested where and how?

The Belgian reform, within a legislative package on the labor market, aims to give flexibility to workers. The idea? Allow employees who request it to spread their Friday work time over the other four days, to have an extended weekend. We therefore remain full-time, with equal pay and, the decision-makers hope, with increased productivity, with motivated and rested employees. In addition, employees will be able to work “a little more one week and a little less the next, which offers some flexibility to people in a co-parenting situation”, underlines the project.

Iceland conducted a similar experiment between 2015 and 2019: reducing working time to thirty-five hours a week over four days, at equal pay. The government and the population were convinced, and the system was generalized. Spain then followed in the footsteps of the Nordics: for three years, the employees of 200 voluntary companies will work thirty-two hours, paid forty hours, over four days for three years. In Sweden, the six-hour day has been tested since 2015.

In the United Kingdom, where productivity below the European average has long been observed for longer working hours, around thirty companies are going to carry out a pilot project with a 100/80/100 model: the entire salary maintained, 80% of working time (four days no longer) but with the same level of productivity over the week.

In Germany, it is to avoid thousands of layoffs linked to the Covid-19 crisis that the metallurgy sector has implemented reduced, negotiable working hours, against… the waiver of a salary increase at come (but without loss of current salary, therefore). Outside Europe, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand and Japan are also gradually converting to a four-day week.

The four-day week, a safe bet?

For its defenders, two arguments plead in favor of a reduction in working time, or at least a week collected over four days. The first is that of employee well-being. According to the Icelandic researchers who observed the experiment carried out in their country, quoted by The Independent, the workers are less stressed, less tired and more optimistic. The measure would also curb sick leave, the Andalusian company Delsol having observed a 20% drop in the absenteeism rate. And the feeling of being able to better organize your personal time also plays a role. The philosopher Céline Marty, author of Work less to live betterthus noted in The world that “having time for oneself is having power over our lives”. Having a day off in addition to an “often tiring” weekend could thus revolutionize the way we see and appreciate free time. An OECD study also notes the benefits of this organization of work.

The other argument is economic. In Iceland, Sweden, or still in the Delsol company, productivity has been maintained or even improved, with an increase in revenue as a result. The giant Microsoft also witnessed a 40% jump in productivity after the test of a four-day week in the summer of 2019. The beneficial effects go even beyond the employees already in place: companies that have implemented place the four-day week themselves, like LDLC in France last year, are becoming more attractive on the job market.

And having their offices free one day a week can give ideas. The German metallurgical sector had advanced a lower number of layoffs and a maintenance of social security contributions, beneficial for all, in a disaster-stricken industry. Finally, let’s mention the ecological benefit of taking transport or the car one day less per week.

The four-day week, possible in France?

The four-day week has been advocated since 1993 by the socialist Pierre Larrouturou, an unsuccessful candidate for the Popular Primary. It was even made possible between 1996 and 1998 thanks to the Robbien law, leading to the creation of hundreds of permanent contracts according to the MEP. Several French companies, such as the computer company LDLC or the start-up Welcome to the Jungle, have switched to a four-day week in recent years. The CGT, which defends the week at thirty-two hours, supports such a development, while Jean-Luc Mélenchon wants a reform on working time.

However, it is difficult to see the four-day week, which is a subject not or little discussed by presidential candidates, becoming the norm in France in the years to come. On the right, the thirty-five hour regime of Lionel Jospin is constantly questioned, difficult to apply in several sectors. For his part, Emmanuel Macron estimated in his speech of October 12 on the France 2030 plan that “we are a country that works less than the others”… which is false, as evidenced by several studies on the working time of countries. Europeans.