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Opinion

The next First Minister should back a four-day week for Wales

29 Dec 2023 4 minute read
Image: 4 Day Week Campaign

Aliyah Davies

With the Welsh Labour leadership contest underway, candidates will need to think carefully about a bold vision for the future and this must include consideration of a four-day working week for Wales.

Wales is facing a myriad of problems. As the Institute for Welsh Affairs (IWA) suggests, the next First Minister will be faced with key issues including economic challenges, a struggling NHS and tackling the climate emergency.

These major policy areas are a lot for any leader to take on, especially one in their first term in office, but the introduction of a four-day week in Wales might be the policy solution to help get them on their way.

Economic challenges

The idea is not a new one and the groundwork has already been laid by the Four-Day Week Working Group established by the Welsh Government that has been actively exploring the potential for a pilot.

If serious about tackling Wales’ major problems, the next First Minister of Wales should build upon this work by committing to getting a public sector pilot underway in 2024.

The economic challenges in Wales are well-documented, with high unemployment rates and a substantial budget shortfall. The next First Minister will need bold ideas to kickstart the Welsh economy.

With the hours of most public sector employees falling under the devolved powers of Wales, the introduction of a four-day week in the Welsh public sector could create up to 38,000 new jobs according to the think tank Autonomy, helping to address the nation’s unemployment problem and improving productivity.

Increased time off work, with no loss of income, could also help boost demand for leisure, travel and tourism, and hospitality services, all of which have been adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Much like the national picture, the state of NHS Wales is dire; waiting lists are reaching record highs, health boards are having to make cuts and health inequalities are worsening. NHS Wales is also having to contend with the added pressures of an older, less healthy population placing high demand on its services.

The demands of a five-day week leaves workers unable to dedicate adequate time to rest, self-care, exercise or healthy meal preparation.

A shorter working week and increased free time has been demonstrated to relieve stress and enhance the health and well-being of individuals, both in terms of physical and mental health, reducing demand for NHS services.

Carbon footprint

Tackling the climate emergency is another major issue which will undoubtedly play a huge role in the next First Minister’s time in office, particularly as they strive to meet the objectives within the Well-Being of Future Generations Act.

Despite having a relatively low population density, some parts of Wales have some of the worst air quality in Britain.

The introduction of a four-day week offers a solution with the potential to shrink the UK’s carbon footprint by up to 127 million tonnes per year, according to environmental organisation Platform London, something Wales could also benefit from immeasurably.

In addition to tackling these major policy areas, the four-day week can have added social benefits for Wales.

The normalisation of reduced working patterns can reduce barriers faced by women in the workplace, while the increased free time could increase community cohesion as people have more time to engage in local groups and activities.

While it may not be a silver bullet, the introduction of a four-day week in Wales may help set the next First Minister on their way to addressing some of the major challenges that Wales faces.

And with the vast majority of the Welsh public stating their support for a Government led pilot, the policy has to be an appealing one to any Welsh Labour leader looking ahead to the 2026 Senedd elections

Aliyah Davies is a campaigner with the 4 Day Week Campaign


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Jeff
Jeff
2 months ago

There are far better work patterns available that help people get a better work life balance but return the same productivity.

Problem is the 18th century establishment in the Tory party and big business seem to need a desperate drive to the bottom line. They can still achieve that, just give it a chance.

Vance Grffiths
Vance Grffiths
2 months ago
Reply to  Jeff

I’d be interested if someone could explain where the20% increse in productivity is going to come from so as not to even more stretch an already overstretched public sector.
Our local council apparently uses this. The same council that has cut school transport and has said they have no money to fund anything but their statutory obligations. Must just be a coincidence

Hywel
Hywel
2 months ago

Rubbish, this is a waster’s charter.
Get people back in the office doing a proper day’s and week’s work, .
Do you seriously think telephone waiting times and hospital waiting times are going to improve by cutting production time by 20%? La-la land.

Jeff
Jeff
2 months ago
Reply to  Hywel

No, it really isn’t a wasters charter.
You have x number of working hours a year. Fit a 4 day week around the same hours and stager staffing so coverage is correct and it allows people a better work life balance, mix it in with work from home and it is great. I worked a system that allowed me time off, I did that for 20 years. It worked. Customers never suffered.

Granted it doesn’t fit everyone, but why not where it can fit and the workers benefit.

TomTom82
TomTom82
2 months ago
Reply to  Jeff

Making people work 20% less a week and expecting productivity to remain the same or even increase is not possible. If you think it is you’re lying to yourself or you’re not capable of grasping the basics of economics.

Jeff
Jeff
2 months ago
Reply to  TomTom82

Been there, seen it, done it, and got the T shirt.
Kept our KPI’s, worked the same hours over a year but less days a week. What is not to like, apart the Rees Mogg mentality of the 17th century working practices.

TomTom82
TomTom82
2 months ago
Reply to  Jeff

Are you suggesting that people work longer hours for 4 days then have the 5th day off? If so, why not just work 5 days? Same hours?
You said in your comment the yearly hours was the same, so for that to pan out mathematically, people would have to work longer days and get the Friday off? Well, what’s the point?

David hughes
David hughes
2 months ago

Wales needs to reduce taxes on individuals and businesses in order to create a competitive advantage over England and Scotland. Copy Ireland. Make wales very busy and job friendly. Entrepreneurship. Not this socialist nonsense.

A.Redman
A.Redman
2 months ago

Work less but receive the same income?Why not a 3 day week whilst at it!!!!! Had it in the 70’s.!!!!!!

Jeff
Jeff
2 months ago
Reply to  A.Redman

3 day week was cos energy shortage. remember the power cuts?

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