A four-day week: the future of labour?

An old idea of Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin is making international headlines. When Marin was minister of transport she publicly discussed the idea of introducing a four-day work week. Finland's government felt compelled to deny rumours that she now wants to go through with the plan. The concept is nonetheless worth considering, commentators say.

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Õhtuleht (EE) /

Estonia could lead the way

If Finland doesn't want to put the plans into practice its neighbour Estonia could, Õhtuleht suggests:

“Unlike an increase in pensions or other social benefits, the reduction in the working week doesn't put a burden on the state coffers, but rather fills them. ... ... A four-day week or six-hour working day could be enough of an argument for at least some of the young people who have allegedly disappeared from the labour market in their thousands to return to work. ... If a shorter working day were to become established in our culture the need to retire would obviously be delayed by several years. In the short term the shorter working week would have a good effect on salary pressure. In the long term it would improve public health because people would have more time to sleep.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

Don't ease up on this

Der Tagesspiegel finds this idea worth pursuing - not only in Finland:

“The challenge is there: if people work fewer hours, these hours need to be allocated differently. In the age of digitalisation this becomes a new issue of distribution. Marin takes a critical view of an unconditional basic income: some people not working at all, others working 70-hour weeks? This has to be compensated for. In any case, the idea has launched a discussion far beyond Finland's borders. And if the idea lays the foundation for the deed, words pave the way for it. This could be a success. Especially since Prime Minister Marin is governing with a cabinet that is more progressive than any other in the world: twelve of the 18 ministries are headed by women, as are the five parties in the coalition. They won't ease up on this.”

Iltalehti (FI) /

No need to wait for politicians to act

Individuals can very well finance the four-day week on their own, investor Merja Mähkä explains in Iltalehti:

“The idea is to acquire assets that generate income, for example an investment property or shares. Let's do the maths: to compensate for work-free Fridays we need dividends amounting to around two months' income. Taking the average Finnish income as our basis that means 5,000 euros [per year]. ... If the annual return on investment is four percent, a share package of around 125,000 euros is required for such dividends. … If the stock market continues to produce the same yields as it has until now, this amount can be accumulated by paying 120 euros a month into a low-cost index fund for 25 years. ... That is neither crazy nor utopian.”