Germany launches major 4-day workweek trial amid labour shortage


Germany has started a six-month four-day workweek trial that will allow employees at 45 companies across the country to work one less day per week for the same pay.

The initiative, which only involves companies whose work can be adapted to a shorter workweek, is led by Berlin-based management consultancy Intraprenör together with the collaboration of the non-profit organisation 4 Day Week Global (4DWG).

Advocates of the shorter workweek hope that working four days a week will make workers happier and more productive at a time when Germany is struggling with slower productivity growth and a labour shortage.

Productivity is normally calculated by dividing economic output by hours worked.

After reaching an all-time high of 105.20 points in November 2017, Germany’s productivity has steadily decreased, according to data from Deutsche Bundesbank, though it remains higher than other major economies in Europe. In November 2023, the latest data available, productivity slid to 95.80 points from 96.79 points the month before.

According to supporters of the four-day workweek and most workers who already tested it, working one less day per week would increase workers’ well-being and motivation, making them more productive.

Working fewer hours per week might also convince those who are not willing to work a full week to enter the workforce, helping to reduce the current labour shortage which is affecting industrialised countries around the world.

Germany is currently struggling with a lack of workers in skilled high-growth sectors.

Last November, the DIHK Chamber of Commerce and Industry said that half of German companies were struggling to fill vacancies.

The thousands of jobs unfilled in the German economy caused the country to lose more than €90 billion in the past year, over 2 per cent of Germany’s GDP, according to DIHK’s Deputy Chief Executive Achim Dercks.

While it’s unclear whether the shorter workweek will fix this problem in any way, Germans appear excited to try it.

A Forsa survey found that 71 per cent of people working in the country would like to have the option to only work four days a week. Just over three-quarters of those surveyed said they were supportive of the government exploring the potential introduction of a four-day week. Among employers, more than two out of three supported this.

A substantial majority (75 per cent) believed that a four-day week would be desirable for employees, with a majority (59 per cent) feeling it should be achievable for employers as well.

Almost half of employers (46 per cent) said they saw trialling a four-day week in their own workplace setting as “feasible”.

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