Sweden’s ongoing experiment with a six hour work day is proving to be costly and inefficient.
The Scandinavian country of 9.5 million has been hosting trial-runs in local municipalities to study the feasibility of a shortened work week.
A two-year experiment in the Swedish city of Gothenburg, the home of Volvo, revealed that the costs of a shortened work week outweigh the benefits.
The schedule for the 68 nurses at Gothenburg’s Svartedalen old people’s home was shortened to six hours over the past two years. While the hours were shortened, nurses were paid the same salary. The city had to hire 17 extra staff, which cost around $1.3 million, in order to conduct the study.
The results showed that while employees at the Svartedalen old people’s home felt healthier (thus reducing sick-leave), the costs associated with the shortened week made it far too expensive for the city to implement as a general rule.
“It’s far too expensive to carry out a general shortening of working hours within a reasonable time frame,” Daniel Bernmar, a local left-wing politician, told the Telegraph.
The experiments in Sweden have been closely followed by the global community. The debate over working hours has come up in the 2017 French Presidential election. Center-right candidate Francois Fillon has vowed to end the 35 hour work week, which he says has significant damage to the country’s economy.
Fillon wants companies to be able to negotiate a 48 hour work week, which would change the current 35-hour work week, something that has been in place since 2000.
In the U.S., Congress enacted the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) in 1938, requiring that employees receive no less than the federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour. The FLSA entitled employees to overtime pay at 1.5 times the employee’s regular pay for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours in any one week, thus establishing America’s 40 hour work week. (RELATED: Here’s Why A Federal Judge Blocked Obama’s Overtime Rule)
As to whether a six hour work week could be feasible in the U.S., the trial-runs would most likely be different than the ones carried out in Sweden.
“It makes sense to me that having a shorter work day would lead to less stress, fewer sick days and overall increases in productivity on average,” Aparna Mathur, a labor policy expert with the American Enterprise Institute, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “But it doesn’t make sense to me that companies would have to continue to pay workers the same salaries as before, as seems to have been done in the Swedish experiment,” she continued.
“I can’t imagine that in the U.S., part-time workers would be paid the same as full-time workers. So there is something wrong with the way the experiment was set up and it’s no surprise that it proved very costly,” Mathur said.
Sweden’s population is significantly less than the U.S., and its population is much more demographically homogeneous. Any potential plan to reduce the work week in the U.S. would take a significant culture shift, and would almost certainly be a proposal that does not reduce worker productivity.
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