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Four-day working week: Belgium is thinking about it seriously


Work four days instead of five while keeping the same salary. Said like that, it’s quite attractive. Except that it is not at all a question of working less but of being more efficient.

This is what the Belgian government is seriously proposing: concentrating on four days everything that is usually done in five. On a full-time basis, for a 40-hour contract, for example, it would mean working 10 hours a day from Monday to Thursday and… zero on Friday. This is the main measure of an ambitious labor reform project put on the table earlier this week, which has yet to be voted on by parliament.

Alexander de Croo’s coalition wants to learn the lessons of the Covid crisis, give employees more flexibility, more flexibility to reconcile their private life and their professional life “especially for co-parenting families“. The fifth day should allow you to take care of your children, to make medical appointments, to rest…

The government also wants to speed up the return to work of those made redundant and impose a “right to disconnect”, with the obligation to negotiate an agreement in companies with more than 20 employees: no more phone calls no more email outside working hours. In the end, the objective is to further increase the employment rate to reach 80% by 2030.

Except that the idea of ​​the four-day week does not please the unions at all. For the Belgian Workers’ Party (PTB) it’s just a “major communication operation to extend night work without control, to standardize the 10-hour day and (by the way) put the trade unions out of play.

Overall, the project received a very mixed reception from left-wing parties and unions. Lhe president of the FGTB, Thierry Bodson, speaks at the microphone of the RTBF of a “assassin stab“: “In the field, 10-hour days are not possible for a certain number of trades. It also means daycares and schools accessible 12 hours a day. This increases the risk of accidents at work“, says the leader of the socialist union. “The symbol is very heavy for us.

However, elsewhere, things are going pretty well! The four-day week is being tested in almost 200 companies in Spain. The experiment will last three years; but there, the reduction in working time sometimes implies a reduction in salary.

The UK is also trying it. “4 Day Week Global”, the non-profit organization behind the project, is based on the “100/80/100” model: working at 100% of one’s capacity for 80% of working time while receiving 100 % of his salary. Same thing in Switzerland where more and more companies are now closed on Fridays. Argument: “Ct is not in the office that good ideas arise, but when we walk or visit a museum” explains Aurelia Zihlmann, the artistic director of A + O, a specialist in graphic design, for “The mail of the expats”. In Germany, the entire metallurgy sector validated the four-day week to save 300,000 jobs threatened by the health crisis…

In France, although some SMEs are trying the experiment, don’t dream: it’s not in the pipeline… Even if several presidential candidates have made the reduction of working time a campaign argument: 28 hours for Philippe Poutou, 32 hours for Yannick Jadot and Jean-Luc Mélenchon. On the right, on the other hand, the slogan “Work more to earn more” is still relevant.



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