A four-day working week could create a stronger economy while improving quality of life for all Scots, according to a think tank.
In a report released this month, the Jimmy Reid Foundation argues that the Scottish labour market is “extremely imbalanced”, with some people working too many hours and others too few.
If all full-time employees worked a four-day, 30-hour week, the paper claims, “there would be enough hours left over to provide every person in Scotland seeking employment with up to 30 hours”.
The report goes on to say: “Current employment patterns do not benefit anyone. Many people work too much whilst others struggle to find work, resulting in a dissatisfactory life pattern for all concerned.
“This is an entirely inefficient and unsatisfactory way to organise society. No-one would have deliberately built a system like this.”
The authors also make the case that overlong hours can cause stress, ill-health and low levels of happiness while also placing a heavy burden on transport networks and other infrastructure.
Additionally, they say, overwork is one of the main factors in absenteeism, which cost the Scottish economy around £630m in 2011/12, and decreased productivity due to fatigue.
According to the report, a four-day week would be “income neutral” for workers as productivity increases when optimal hours are worked. They point to countries such as the Netherlands and France where more leisure time has resulted in a happier, healthier workforce.
The paper maps out a possible ten-year transition to a four-day working week, and the Foundation is now calling on the Scottish Government to consider the change in the event of a Yes vote in the independence referendum.
It concludes: “The post-crash world economy needs to develop a whole new set of measurements and principles in which to evaluate economic success if we are to avoid making the same mistakes over and over again.
“Working time should be central to this debate and Scotland could lead the way in pioneering a 30-hour, four day week.”