Coronavirus: European politicians call for four-day working week

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·2-min read
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 27: Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell talks to the media as he stands with fellow campaigners outside the Royal Courts of Justice following the announcement ruling against the controversial third runway for Heathrow airport on February 27, 2020 in London, England.  Critics of the plans took the case to the court of appeal, claiming that the developments did not take into account climate change commitments. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell was among signatories of a letter that calls for wider adoption of a four-day working week. Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images

A new campaign has urged politicians to consider a widespread roll out of a four-day working week in order to support economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

A coalition of officials, including former shadow chancellor John McDonnell, sent a letter to UK prime minister Boris Johnson, German chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez and other officials, suggesting the change, according to a report in The Guardian.

The group said: “Throughout history, shorter working hours have been used during times of crisis and economic recession as a way of sharing work more equally across the economy between the unemployed and the overemployed.”

“For the advancement of civilisation and the good society, now is the moment to seize the opportunity and move towards shorter working hours with no loss of pay.”

READ MORE: What are the pros and cons of a 4-day week?

The letter also looked at how a rethink of working patterns could reduce energy usage, and potentially help to tackle the climate crisis.

The signatories of the letter include Katja Kipping, the chair of Die Linke party in Germany; Íñigo Errejón, an MP in Spain’s Más País party; Green party MP Caroline Lucas; and Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union.

Campaigns rallying for a four-day week come in spite of research that has found many people do not want to reduce their working hours.

READ MORE: Calls for four-day week 'ignore reality' many workers want more hours

A report that published in July by leading UK think tank the Resolution Foundation found calls for a four-day working week “ignore the reality” of life for many low-earners who need more hours.

It said that a gap in paid hours has widened between better-off and less well-off households, and the gender gap persists when it comes to unpaid labour.

Business groups have also previously said it would not solve productivity issues the UK faced even before the COVID-19 crisis.

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