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ILO Report Spurs Movement toward Four-Day Workweek in the Philippines and in Russia

(A) The original article: 5 good reasons for working 4 days a week

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

— Jon Messenger, ILO Team Leader, Working Conditions Group
 
I’ve been studying working hours since I joined the ILO in 2000 and I’ve never seen anything like it: article after article touting the benefits of a reduced work-week, with business leaders from Google co-founder Larry Page to Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, all saying the same thing.

If you ask me, the idea of cutting back the workweek has finally reached critical mass. But it’s hardly a new idea—there are a lot of good reasons for moving towards a shorter, four-day workweek.  Here are just a few of them.

1. Working too much is bad for your health

The costs of long working hours in terms of occupational health and safety are staggering. Cardiovascular diseases, gastrointestinal and reproductive problems, musculoskeletal disorders, chronic infections, mental health problems, and even higher rates of “all-cause mortality”—in other words, death! If you don’t believe me, ask workers in Japan and Korea, where words like karoshi and kwarosa—which literally mean “death from overwork”—are part of everyday vocabulary. Moving to a four-day workweek would help to reduce these serious health issues and their associated costs.

— The regulation of working time is one of the oldest concerns of labour legislation. Already in the early 19th century it was recognized that working excessive hours posed a danger to workers’ health and to their families. Find out more
 
2. A shorter workweek would create more and better jobs

While some people are working too much, others aren’t able to work enough—namely those part-time workers who would prefer full-time jobs. During the global economic crisis, policies such as Kurzarbeit in Germany encouraged companies to respond to reduced demand for their products and services by reducing working hours instead of cutting jobs. For example, instead of laying-off 20 per cent of the workforce, employers could reduce working hours for all workers by 20 per cent—from five days a week to four. Similar measures can be used in good times as well. For example, when the legal workweek in Korea was cut from 44 to 40 hours per week, there were increases in both employment and productivity.

3. We’re more productive when we work less

In many parts of the world, it’s taken as an article of faith that long working hours equal high productivity. The problem is that it simply isn’t true. On the contrary, many of those countries where workers work the longest have relatively low labour productivity. This is particularly true in work environments that encourage presenteeism, or “face time”, which is all about showing your boss how hard you are working—instead of actually doing the work. But “face time” is waste time: it doesn’t increase your productivity or improve your results. Shorter working hours, by contrast, have been shown to boost workers’ motivation, lower absenteeism, reduce the risk of mistakes and accidents, and discourage employee turnover. So cutting the workweek isn’t just good for workers, it’s good for businesses, too.

“ A new study has shown that a shorter workweek was directly related to an increase in overall life satisfaction, or ‘happiness’.”

4. Working less would be good for the environment

With all the talk about “greening” our economies these days, people seldom talk about cutting work hours. Yet, it’s pretty clear that the more we work, the bigger our “carbon footprint” will be. Cutting back on the number of days that we work—and thus the number of times that we have to commute from our homes to our workplaces—is bound to save energy, reduce carbon emissions and ultimately make for a “greener” economy.

5. Working fewer days would make us happier

A number of studies have identified regular long working hours as an important predictor of work-life conflict. This may sound obvious, especially to anyone with kids or elderly parents to care for, but the facts show that long work weeks can lead to more stress and anxiety at home. In fact, a new study has shown that a shorter workweek was directly related to an increase in overall life satisfaction, or “happiness”.

Summing it all up, there are a lot of good reasons for reducing working hours and moving to a shorter workweek. If the workweek is already five days—as it is in most advanced economies—then moving to a four-day workweek doesn’t just make good sense, it is the next step in the long road to a happier, healthier, and more sustainable society.

 

(B) Labor Expert Cities Five Good Reasons for Four-Day Workweek

By Tina G. Santos |
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines –

Here is one labor expert who believes a four-day workweek is the way to a happier, healthier society.
If you are not sold on the idea, why not also ask some Japanese and Korean workers.

Some militant groups, like Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), may not agree with that but Jon Messenger of the International Labor Organization (ILO) says there are many good reasons for moving toward a shorter workweek.

In an article posted on the ILO website, titled “5 good reasons for working 4 days a week,” Messenger said a four-day workweek “is the next step in the long road to a happier, healthier and more sustainable society.”

Messenger was team leader of the ILO working group that drew up the report.

“ I’ve been studying working hours since I joined the ILO in 2000 and I’ve never seen anything like it: article after article touting the benefits of a reduced workweek,” Messenger said.

“ If you ask me, the idea of cutting back the workweek has finally reached critical mass. But it’s hardly a new idea—there are a lot of good reasons for moving towards a shorter, four-day workweek.”

The four-day workweek scheme approved by the Civil Service Commission would mean longer working hours for state employees—from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. with a one-hour lunch break—either from Tuesdays to Fridays or from Mondays to Thursdays.

Health issues

But the new schedule has been criticized by some organizations—including the labor group KMU—which said longer working hours would put the health of government employees at risk.

Messenger believes otherwise, stressing that shifting to a four-day workweek would help reduce serious health issues.
“ Working too much is bad for one’s health … The costs of long working hours in terms of occupational health and safety are staggering,” he said.

He cited cardiovascular diseases, gastrointestinal and reproductive problems, chronic infections, mental health problems and even death as among the health risks faced by overworked people.

“ If you don’t believe me, ask workers in Japan and Korea, where words like ‘karoshi’ and ‘kwarosa’—which literally mean ‘death from overwork’—are part of the everyday vocabulary,” Messenger said.

Happier, too

Messenger also said working fewer days made one happier.

“ Studies have identified regular long working hours as an important predictor of work-life conflict,” he said. “This may sound obvious, especially to anyone with kids or elderly parents to care for, but the facts show that long workweeks can lead to more stress and anxiety at home.”

“ In fact, a new study has shown that a shorter workweek was directly related to an increase in overall life satisfaction, or ‘happiness,’” he added.

A shorter workweek would also create more and better jobs.

“ While some people are working too much, others aren’t able to work enough—namely those part-time workers who would prefer full-time jobs,” Messenger said.

German example

He said that during the global economic crisis, some policies in Germany encouraged companies to reduce working hours instead of cutting jobs.

“ Instead of laying off 20 percent of the workforce, employers could reduce working hours for all workers by 20 percent—from five days a week to four,” Messenger said.

“ Similar measures can be used in good times as well,” Messenger said. “For example, when the legal workweek in Korea was cut from 44 to 40 hours per week, there were increases in employment and productivity.”

One Filipino group opposes the new work schedule, saying it would have a bad effect on the “work-life balance” as workers would end up some days spending more hours at work than with their families.

Also, it may result in a decrease in productivity and leave workers more vulnerable to criminals as they would be going home late from work.

For Messenger, people are more productive when they work less.

Good for business, too

“ It’s simply not true that long working hours equal high productivity. On the contrary, many of those countries where workers work the longest have relatively low labor productivity,” he said.

He stressed that shorter work hours had been shown to boost workers’ motivation, lower absenteeism, reduce the risk of mistakes and accidents, and discourage employee turnover.

“ Cutting the workweek isn’t just good for workers, it’s good for businesses, too,” he said, adding that working less would also be good to environment.

“ It’s pretty clear that the more we work, the bigger our ‘carbon footprint’ will be,” he said. “Cutting back on the number of days that we work—and thus the number of times that we have to commute from our homes to our workplaces—is bound to save energy, reduce carbon emissions and ultimately make for a ‘greener’ economy.”

“ There are a lot of good reasons for … moving to a shorter workweek. If the workweek is already five days—as it is in most advanced economies— then moving to a four-day workweek doesn’t just make good sense, it is the next step in the long road to a happier, healthier, and more sustainable society,” he said.

 

(C) Militant Groups Oppose Four-Day Workweek

By Jaymee T. Gamil |
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines–

Militant groups have described as antiworker and antifamily the four-day workweek scheme approved recently by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) for Metro Manila government offices to help ease traffic congestion.

In a statement on Monday, labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) said that the new schedule would mean longer working hours for government employees as they would be at the office from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.—with an hour off for lunch—either from Tuesdays to Fridays or from Mondays to Thursdays.

“ Workers fought for the right to an eight-hour workday to protect [their] health. The four-day workweek is a direct attack on this hard-won victory of the international workers’ movement and shows how antiworker this government is,” KMU chair Elmer “Bong” Labog said.

He also took exception to proposals to implement the scheme in the private sector, warning that “some employers may take advantage of the opportunity to cut workers’ wages further.”

In a phone interview, Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage) national president Ferdinand Gaite said the new work schedule would have a bad effect on their “work-life balance” as they would end up spending more hours at the office rather than with their families.

He also pointed out that government employees would be more vulnerable to criminals as they would be coming home from work late.

At the same time, the Courage official warned that the scheme may just reduce employees’ productivity. “According to studies, the more work hours increase, the more employee productivity and performance decrease,” he said.

He also noted that the four-day workweek, sometimes being implemented in the House of Representatives or the Senate, has proven to be “ineffective” in terms of public service delivery.

“ It lessens opportunities for government transactions because even if [government agencies] extend work hours, people don’t go to the offices past 5 p.m. because they also need to go home,” Gaite said.

He also pointed out that there was no concrete empirical data to show that the scheme would ease traffic, noting that most government employees use public transport.

On the other hand, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chair Francis Tolentino welcomed the CSC’s move, saying he had pushed for the new work schedule earlier this year.

“ The scheme will be beneficial to the public as it will redound to [fewer] commuters, pedestrians and… vehicles on our road networks,” he said, adding, “Employees can also enjoy longer family time with their three days off.”

– With a report from Maricar B. Brizuela

 

Editorial comment: The labor group KMU has a point in objecting to reversal of the 8-hour day. Really, the goal should be to have a 4-day, 32-hour workweek. With the continued development of machine production, we do not need the two extra hours in a day to maintain full production of useful goods and services.


(D) Russian Parliament to Mull Four-Day Work Week, Cut Hours

by Sergey Mamontov

MOSCOW, October 7 (RIA Novosti) -

The State Duma Committee for Labour, Social Policy and Veterans' Affairs has decided to hold a round-table discussion on introducing a four-day work week to meet the ILO’s recent recommendation, the committee chairperson Andrei Isaev was quoted as saying by Russian daily Kommersant Tuesday.

According to the official, the Committee “won’t let the initiative go unnoticed” and will arrange a meeting this week. Isaev underscored that it is not the number of days that is important; the working hours are important. In his opinion, “working 10 hours four days long is the same 40-hour week”. The lawmaker fosters establishment of a 36-hour work week and insists salaries and wages be kept.

At the beginning of October Jon Messenger, a high-profile member of the International Labour Organization (ILO), in the agency’s official blog grounded  “5 good reasons for working 4 days a week”. He explains that too much work can harm one’s health (1), whereas a shorter week could fight unemployment (2), help one be more industrious and efficient (3), improve the ecological situation by cutting traffic (4) and ultimately cheer us all (5).

For the recommendation to gain legal power, it has to be formed as a convention and then be joined and ratified by Russia, comments Anna Stefania Chepik, the CEO of YourBee legal company in her interview with Kommersant. As a member state, Russia has already ratified 68 ILO conventions with some of them subsequently amending the Labour Code. However, an ILO document will have a priority even if no amendments to the Labour Code are made.

Trade unions have met the initiative with optimism. Newspaper Vedomosti renders the opinion of the Moscow Federation of Trade Unions Deputy Chairman Sergei Chinnov who believes a shorter week would create new jobs in Russia’s regions.

In their turn, business representatives feel sceptic about the recommendation as they consider the Russian economy low efficient and think cutting a work week would inflict heavy losses on it. In an interview with Kommersant, recruitment agency HeadHunter’s Managing Director Mikhail Zhukov stated “neither the present nor the next Russian generations have a chance to switch to a four-day week”.

As Forbes reminds, some of the world’s wealthiest men have advocated the idea of introducing a four-day work week, among them Google CEO Larry Page and Virgin founder Richard Branson.

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