Gerhard Trabert, candidate for the left-wing Die Linke political party in upcoming European parliamentary elections, attends the presentation of Die Linke's election campaign placards on March 19, 2024. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)


Germany’s The Left calls for four-day working week


Germany’s Die Linke – The Left – outlined an “ambitious” plan for German workers; the introduction of a four-day week on full pay being one.

On March 25, the party advocated for increased leisure time and reduced stress levels. It is trying to combine less work with the problem of a labour shortage in Germany, which they ascribed to poor working conditions.

In their plans, the public sector would play a pioneering role in the implementation of a four-day working week.

The Left’s federal director Ates Gürpinar said during a presentation: “The Government must intervene and reduce working hours quickly, with full wage compensation.

“A gradual reduction to 32 hours per week is conceivable.

“In this way, the Government is creating a standard on the labour market that private competitors must also follow if they want to attract new skilled workers,” Gürpinar said.

To achieve this, the Left wants to create a so-called “anti-stress ordinance”.

Similar to other occupational health and safety-hazard legislation, this one aims to outline the responsibilities of businesses.

Trade unions and works councils could then more easily enforce health-promoting working conditions, the party argued.

With a decreasing workload, though, a wage reduction must be ruled out, it insisted.

The four-day week has long been one of the demands of trade unionists, who also want to change labour law and enable a reimagining of working-time models in organisations that, they say, are more appropriate for workers’ personal circumstances.

The Left wants works councils to be involved in this. It says laws ought to apply to businesses of all shapes and sizes. Specific activities and the unique characteristics of small firms could be considered when creating working-time concepts, tailored to the specific organisation.

Furthermore, for companies that do not have a high turnover or profit, the party calls for the provision of temporary wage subsidies.

In the field of public services, The Left demands that the federal Government initially imposes a cut in working hours – without financial penalty.

More than 70 per cent of Germans are in favour of a four-day working week in theory, according to The Left. Still, concerns about potential income loss persist among many citizens.

In February, some 45 German companies introduced a four-day week, with full salary, as part of a six-month experiment.

The goal is, apparently, to get part-timers into more regular work and combat wage inflation. In addition, improving “work-life balance” is expected to boost productivity and thus offset the decline in working-hours.

Stijn Baert, a professor of labour economics lecturing at the Belgian University of Ghent, told Brussels Signal he did not believe in the strategy.

He warned: “Companies in such a country would price themselves out of the market when operating internationally,” and added that, if the workload or work processes were not changed, negative outcomes were more likely.

“It could increase work pressure and contribute to a higher risk of burnout,” he said.