Wales’ four-day week trial plan ‘Soviet’ says Telegraph newspaper
Plans in Wales to explore the possibility of a four-day week have been branded “Soviet” by the Telegraph newspaper.
Wales’ future generations commissioner, Sophie Howe, called on Monday for the Welsh government to launch a shorter working week trial.
But according to the Telegraph‘s Chief City Commentator, Ben Marlowe, “Wales’s Soviet experiment with the four-day week will backfire” as there is “a danger that people will soon object to the very concept of work itself”.
“It is perhaps no surprise that the Welsh government, which seems determined to keep its population under lockdown indefinitely under hapless First Minister Mark Drakeford, is mulling a trial on the spurious basis that it will mean a better work-life balance, boost productivity, create thousands of new jobs, and reduced carbon emissions,” he said.
“A more likely outcome is that the work rate falls largely in line with the reduction in working hours. This is what happened in Sweden when a four-day week was introduced in 2015. So, rather than receiving the same pay for fewer hours, workers would more than likely have to accept a corresponding fall in incomes.”
The future generations commissioner Sophie Howe argued that it could eventually mean increased productivity and savings for society if it led to a healthier workforce.
A report by the commissioner and think tank Autonomy found that almost 60% said they would support the Welsh government piloting a four day week scheme and about two-thirds would ideally work a four-day week.
“It’s clear that following the pandemic, people across Wales are re-evaluating their priorities in life and looking for a healthier work-life balance,” she said.
“The escalating demands of caring for loved ones due to an ageing population and an increase in mental health issues, exacerbated by working long hours, are just some of the factors that make a shorter working week more appealing.
“The working week has not changed for more than 100 years and now seems the perfect opportunity for the Welsh Government to commit to a pioneering trial and build evidence for greater change across Wales.”
Senedd Member Jack Sargeant said that he backed a shorter working week: “We work some of the longest hours in Europe and this is clearly detrimental to workers’ lives and, the evidence suggests, to productivity as well.
“Those that oppose it make the same tired arguments that opponents of progress have always made,” he said. “The workplace and our lives are changing. Automation and AI will change it even more. A shorter week would be a great way of giving working people some of the fruits of these changes.”
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