U.S. proposes legislation pushing 4-day workweek

But senator warns of negative outcomes for business with shortened workweek

U.S. proposes legislation pushing 4-day workweek

In a move to address widespread exhaustion among workers, Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced a bill proposing a significant reduction in the standard work week in the United States.

The proposal suggests transitioning from the traditional 40-hour work week to a more leisurely 32-hour schedule over the course of four years, without any loss in pay. The bill also advocates for overtime pay for shifts exceeding eight hours or weeks extending beyond 32 hours of work.

According to a report from Strait Times, Sanders argues that the current work structure, established over eight decades ago, is no longer suitable for the modern workforce. He cites a significant increase in productivity among American workers, which has surged by over 400% since the implementation of the 40-hour work week.

The proposal aims to harness advancements in technology to enable workers to achieve the same level of productivity in less time.

The idea of a shorter work week is not new to American politics. In the early 1930s, there was a push for a 30-hour work week, although it did not materialize. According to Strait Times, it wasn’t until 1938, with the Fair Labour Standards Act, that the 40-hour work week became standardized. Since then, various countries have explored shorter work weeks with varying success.

Pushing for a shorter work week

Supporters of the bill point to international examples, such as France’s 35-hour work week and ongoing discussions in other countries like Norway and Denmark and Germany, as evidence of the feasibility and benefits of shorter work hours, said the report.

Proponents argue that shorter hours not only increase productivity but also improve overall well-being by reducing stress and fatigue.

However, not everyone is convinced of the viability of a four-day work week, according to Strait Times. Critics, including Republican Senator Bill Cassidy, caution against the potential negative impacts on businesses, particularly small enterprises already struggling with staffing shortages. They argue that mandating a shorter work week could exacerbate these issues and lead to job losses or increased prices for consumers.

“Employers would be forced to eliminate full-time positions in favour of part-time ones,” Cassidy added.

The debate surrounding the proposed legislation extends beyond the United States, said the report.

Cassidy mentioned that Japan shortened its work week to 30 hours between 1988 and 1996, noting the country experienced a 20% decline in economic output as a result.

Globally, there is a growing acknowledgment of the role of technology, particularly artificial intelligence, in reshaping labor dynamics, said the Strait Times. Dr. Cindy Gordon, an AI ethicist, predicts a significant shift in the workforce composition as automation continues to advance. She suggests that a shorter work week may be inevitable as technology increasingly takes on routine tasks.

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