A Path to a 4-day week (with 8-hour days)

Suppose(!) an Oz government or IR tribunal, wanted to shift the standard working week to four eight-hour days.
Here’s one possible path:

Reduce standard working week from 38 hours to 35, a demand of the trade union movement that’s been on the books for the last 50 years. With four weeks annual leave and 10 public holidays per year, that implies just over 1600 hours per year (excluding sick leave etc) 1/..

Now move to the four-day, 32 hour week, with the proviso that the full four days are worked in weeks with public holidays. That gives 1536 hours worked in a standard year 2/..

Now shift from four weeks annual leave to two, with the proviso that workers can put in up to eight 5-day weeks during the year and take the time off in an additional two-week block. That brings annual hours back up to 1600 3/…


5 thoughts on “A Path to a 4-day week (with 8-hour days)

  1. I feel like you’re coming at this from the wrong direction, since many of the salaried workers this approach would benefit are already able to work four days a week if they wish. The challenge is to create a four day week for casuals and other wage earners, gig workers and small business owners. For businesses like convenience stores and services like hospitals, an 8% decrease in the standard work week (from 38 to 35 hours) requires a commensurate increase in the number of full-time equivalent workers required.

    This distinction is particularly relevant because in a service-based economy, a lot of people get paid to occupy a certain space and perform a certain task at a certain time. When rich economies involved significant manufacturing, the switch to a 40 hour week entailed running the factory for less hours per day or less days per week. I think a switch to a 32 hour week today would involve running the espresso machine or the massage table for one less day per week.

    In other words, we need a new Sunday – a day when the shops are closed, entertainment options are limited and very few people work. Of course it would be very different to the old Sunday (it might even be on Monday) – grocery stores would still be open, maybe restaurants would be open but close early – but it would be a day that the vast majority of the population would have off: contractors gig workers, casual and salaried office workers.

  2. Not to mention that a lot of unionised trades actually use their shorter work week to mean more hours paid at overtime. They’re going to keep working 50 hour weeks, the discussion is how much they get paid for it.

    For the precariat playing with the hours-in-a-week only matters if it gets changed from 168 to another number. Or much simpler, lift the minimum wage and apply that lower bound to more people.

  3. Workers 》citizens.

    “One might argue that aiming for preference changes is something policies shouldn’t do. “Our short general answer to this objection is: If society does not debate how preferences are formed, they risk being shaped by and to the benefit of special interest groups rather than in a democratic way. ”

    JQ, how will workers, post 4 day week, know their changed preferences, and how will they be revealed and taken account a priori, before settling on 4 day week awareness, policy and acceptance?

    An unknown unknown at this stage it seems to those effected. Which may stifle and delay introduction.

    “Climate economics: Policies change people
    The makers of climate policy should rethink about how people think

    “The researchers’ advice to policy makers is to take changing preferences into account when tailoring policies like carbon taxes or building low-carbon infrastructure.

    “Carbon pricing is indispensable for delivering on climate targets,” says co-author Nicholas Stern, who published the famous 2006 Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change. “However, if carbon pricing changes people’s preferences — and there is evidence that it does — this has implications. For example, if citizens see carbon prices as indicating purposefulness of policy in directions that they find sensible, then the response to carbon pricing could be enhanced.” They do not simply act as consumers: as citizens, they will develop low-carbon preferences, and more environmental protection could be achieved by a given tax rate.”


    Linus Mattauch, Cameron Hepburn, Fiona Spuler, Nicholas Stern. The economics of climate change with endogenous preferences. Resource and Energy Economics, 2022; 101312 DOI:10.1016/j.reseneeco.2022.101312

  4. Alessio Terzi
    July 15th, 2022

    “Worktime reductions are only natural in a growing economy

    “Worktime reductions are often invoked by the anti-capitalist and post-growth literature. And yet, there’s nothing anti-capitalist about a shorter workweek. Over the past 200 years, since the Industrial Revolution sparked an unprecedented acceleration in economic growth, working hours have been on a steep decline.Alessio Terzi writes that today’s conversations about a three-day weekend are not a shift in paradigm but rather a continuation of the paradigm we have seen for over two centuries. 

     “The shorter workweek seems to be upon us. As part of an overhaul to the country’s labour law, Belgiumhas recently decided to give workers the right to request a four-day week, as has notoriously workaholic Japan since last summer. Spain is equally piloting such a scheme since 2021, and so is Iceland. Given that long work hours are often associated with profit over people, this type of news could seem to suggest that a consensus is progressively emerging to shift away from a ‘capitalistic obsession with profit’, and the consequent ‘societal obsession with economic growth’. Such a reading would be understandable, especially since worktime reductions have often been invoked by the anti-capitalistand post-growth literature. And yet, nothing could be further from the truth.”


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