Maheen Behrana explains how Britain has longer working hours than any country in the EU and why the Conservative Party is so strongly committed to keeping it that way
After an extremely sunny holiday weekend, many of us fantasize about a constantly shortened work week. While this idea in the past was confined to the fringes of political thought – and the minds of tired, cranky Monday morning commuters – it has now entered the mainstream.
A recent study found that a four-day work week reduce UK carbon emissions of 127 million tonnes. From a business point of view, repeated testing of the four-day week show increased productivity, improved employee well-being and reduced absenteeism.
British workers are currently working a average of 42.3 hours per week – longer than those living in any EU member state. Yet it has low productivity and huge levels of employee stress. Something appears to be broken in the UK working world – and the evidence points to a four-day work week as a potential solution.
Unfortunately, however, the flexible working hours in the UK will not happen immediately. Indeed, the very idea is directly opposed to the ethics of this government.
For the four-day week to work effectively, companies would need to pay their staff a full salary for 20% reduced hours. The Conservative Party has generally favored policies that do not cap employees’ hours of work and that do not set a minimum wage threshold.
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In addition, recent government rhetoric has attempted to downplay the importance of time off work. When the idea of an additional public holiday in October was raised last year, the prime minister said people had “quite a few days off” and should “take a small step forward to get back to office. “.
This taunt against people who had been put on leave – an experience that was extremely stressful for those who went through it – also attempted to present the calls for an extra holiday as a sign of social laziness; declared by a man who missed five crucial COBRA meetings at the start of the coronavirus pandemic so he can complete a book on Shakespeare.
However, aside from the Conservatives’ long-standing sentimentality towards Victorian-era labor practices, something more malicious may underlie the government’s opposition to the four-day week.
Work and leisure
There is ample evidence to show that authoritarian governments generally support watered down workers’ rights, whatever form they take.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, for example, put in place a law allowing employers to request 400 hours of overtime of their employees every year, failing to consult unions on policy. Meanwhile, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has systematically repressed union power, stopping strikers despite dangerous working conditions.
Hungary and Turkey have authoritarian governments, but we are less reluctant in the UK to take a similar critical look at our own rulers. Yet more and more the UK government is found to have such tendencies.
His police, crime, sentencing and courts bill has been criticized for criminalization of “serious inconvenience”. The government is trying to close the discussion urging school staff not to teach children white privileges or share “anti-capitalist” materials. It is also trying to introduce voter identification at polling stations – a measure, it is feared, will suppress the votes of poorer voters and ethnic and black minorities.
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Arguably there is a reason the suppression of progressive labor policies matches other forms of authoritarianism: the use of burnout as a political tool.
A recent report on Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers is instructive here. One worker explained that while it was no longer technically illegal for him to seek new employment under Qatar’s reformed migrant labor laws, he was not able to do so as he worked 12 hours a day. day, seven days a week. Exhaustion leads to poor entrapment – simply because the effort required to find a way out is too great.
And so it is with politics. the growing concert economy, the rise of precariat and stagnant wages all conspire to exhaust the active and electoral population. A tired population is not necessarily able to find the energy or resources to challenge the systems and structures that lead to perpetual exploitation and exhaustion.
A tired population cannot focus on political evils, or hold their government to account almost as well as a person who has enough time and energy to do so. When your concerns are keeping a roof over your head and feeding your family, it’s hard to focus on other seemingly suppressed issues like questionable government contracts or Boris Johnson’s. WhatsApp Habits.
A four-day week would give people the time and space to reflect on their lives and the impact of politics on them. It is therefore not surprising that several of the main cabinet ministers today, including Home Secretary Priti Patel and Foreign Minister Dominic Raab, have therefore advocate for Chinese work UK conditions.
A tired population cannot focus on political evils, or hold their government to account almost as well as a person who has enough time and energy to do so.
Many Chinese workers, white-collar and blue-collar workers, adhere to the grueling 996 program – working 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week. China is hardly a model of democracy or free thought. If British workers were to be put on the same schedule, it is highly likely that the government could get its policies passed and act with impunity much more easily.
Work and working conditions are political choices. A four-day week would change society for the better, not only because it would give people more personal time, but because it would also give us more political time. And this is something that an unscrupulous, authoritarian government will never accept.
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