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Germany wants to extend the four-day week, initiated by Volkswagen 30 years ago

Who hasn’t dreamed of working four days a week while receiving 100% of their salary? Utopia or model of the future? Germany seems rather seduced. Illustration in a company in the southwest of the country.

That morning, the trucks were already loaded, filled with faucets, tiles and pipes. In the workshop of this company which installs heating and sanitary facilities, in the south-west of Germany, the boss Markus Gaßner gives the final instructions to his ten workers. Everyone works four days a week.

The schedule is displayed on the computer, with small colored sticks. “Everyone has their own schedule and their own color, explains the boss. For example, in yellow, it’s Denis: he’s never there on Fridays. On Wednesdays, Ayleen doesn’t work.”

“We do as many projects as when we worked five days but in four days and productivity has even increased.”

Markus Gaßner, business manager

at franceinfo

The company was one of the first in the region to implement a four-day week, in 2016: 37 hours per week compared to 40 previously and without loss of salary. To improve efficiency, the business manager reviewed his organization. “We changed our processesexplains Markus Gaßner. We always install the same products, which allows fitters to know exactly where the screw is and where they need to attach it. For stock management, we have set up a scanner and labeling, this allows us to always have at least five pieces in reserve. This way, we never run out of the equipment we need most. All of this allows the guys to arrive on site faster and we are more efficient.”

50 companies will do the test for six months

Since the transition to a four-day week, Ayleen Bauser, the executive assistant, no longer works Wednesdays. “Before, I worked in a company where we worked five days a week, and I must say that in comparison, the four-day week is a dreame, she confides. I can comfortably do my shopping, my cleaning, be there for the children, make a doctor’s appointment or go to the swimming pool. I no longer have to wonder, ‘oh my god, how am I going to do all this?'”

The boss reviews the four-day week with his team once a month, but so far, no one has questioned this model. The powerful IG Metall union would even like to extend it to the steel industry.

Bad idea, says Holger Schäffer, labor market expert at the Cologne Institute of Economics. “This is a completely absurd discussion. We lack labor and we want to work even less, which worsens the shortagehe criticizes.

“This is exactly the opposite of what we need. We need to discuss measures and ideas to encourage people to work more.”

Holger Schäffer, labor market expert

at franceinfo

In Germany, this model of reducing working hours, which first appeared in 1994 within the Volkswagen group, is nevertheless attractive. Like other European countries, it is considering expanding this system, which is supposed to improve business productivity and above all make employees happier. As part of a study, 50 companies are preparing to test it for six months. Eight out of ten Germans favor this working model.

Germany wants to extend the week by 4 days: report by Sébastien Baer

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