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Greece Introduces Six-Day Work Week to Boost Productivity

TL;DR intro

  • Greece implements a six-day work week:A measure aimed at boosting productivity in response to economic challenges.
  • The policy addresses population decline and skilled worker shortage:An attempt to mitigate the impact of demographic shifts on the workforce.
  • Union backlash emerges:Critics argue that the extended work week undermines workers' rights and work-life balance.

In a bold and controversial move, Greece has introduced a six-day work week aimed at increasing productivity. This decision comes as other nations experiment with shorter work weeks. The country, once at the heart of Europe's financial crisis, is now taking an unorthodox step by implementing a 48-hour work week, a measure that has been met with strong opposition from unions.

Akis Sotiropoulos, a member of the executive committee of the civil servants' union Adedy, criticized the measure. “It makes no sense whatsoever," he stated. “While most other civilized countries are moving towards a four-day work week, Greece decides to go the other way."

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Government's Justification

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his pro-business government argue that the measure is necessary due to a shrinking population and a shortage of skilled workers. Before announcing the legislation, Mitsotakis described the demographic challenge as a “ticking timebomb." Since the debt crisis began in late 2009, around 500,000 young, educated Greeks have emigrated.

The new scheme will apply to private businesses offering round-the-clock services. Employees in selected industries will have the option to work an additional two hours daily or an extra eight-hour shift, receiving a 40% wage increase for the extended hours. The government claims this will address unpaid overtime and tackle undeclared work.

“The nucleus of this legislation is worker-friendly and deeply growth-oriented," Mitsotakis told the Greek parliament. “It aligns Greece with the rest of Europe."

Public and Union Response

Despite the government's assertions, the measure has sparked significant backlash. Critics argue that it effectively ends the five-day work week, allowing employers to mandate a sixth day of work. Protests have erupted, with opponents claiming that the reform erodes legal protections and rolls back workers' rights.

“In reality, this has been passed by a government ideologically committed to generating bigger profits for capital," said Sotiropoulos. “Better productivity comes from better work conditions and a better quality of life, which we now know means fewer hours, not more."

The diminishing power of trade unions, weakened by austerity measures during the financial crisis, has also played a role in enabling this legislation. Unions argue that the reliance on overtime allows employers to avoid hiring additional staff.

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Global Comparisons and Reactions

Trial programs for four-day work weeks have shown increased productivity, attributed to improved focus. Countries like Belgium have legislated the right to spread work hours over four days, and similar pilot schemes have been conducted in the UK, Germany, Japan, South Africa, and Canada.

Currently, Greeks work the longest hours in Europe, averaging 41 hours a week according to Eurostat. Despite this, their salaries remain low. The left-wing opposition has frequently criticized the disparity, describing it as “Bulgarian salaries in a country of British prices," exacerbating the brain drain.

Pensioners, who are also encouraged to work under the new law, have voiced their concerns. Grigoris Kalomoiris, head of the union of retired teachers (Pesek), stated, “The government is essentially saying ‘go and work longer, we'll turn a blind eye even if you're a pensioner.' This barbaric measure won't solve labor shortages and is unfair to unemployed young Greeks who may never have a job."

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