The four-day week spans Spain: the Basque Country wants to try it out to attract talent

At the end of February, the results of the four-day work week trial that was carried out from June to December 2022 in the United Kingdom were published. 61 companies participated in the test and the results were so positive that 56 firms decided to prolong this reduction in working hours after the end of the experiment. Of these 56, 18 have adopted it permanently.

Some of the benefits of the four-day work week are increased revenue for companies, greater competitiveness for firms to attract talent, and improved quality of life for workers. All this has convinced public administrations in many countries and regions of the world to organize trials to test the 32-hour work week. The last to sign up, Euskadi, thus following the example of other communities such as Valencia.

Ad. On March 3, Idoia Mendia, Vicelehendakari and Minister of Labor and Employment of the Basque Government, communicated in the Basque Parliament that will propose at the social dialogue table the creation of a labor innovation working group capable of carrying out “an investigation with a practical test and final evaluation”.

More weight of workers in strategic decisions. In addition, Mendia announced two other areas that, should the proposal go ahead, would be studied by this working group within the framework of the 2024 Employment Plan. On the one hand, codetermination in the workplace, giving more paper to workers “at a time of profound technological transformation.” That is, the increase in the participation of workers in strategic decision-making of companies.

Teleworking, under examination. On the other hand, teleworking. According to Mendia, “the flexibility it offers makes it very attractive, but we must also analyze its risks for rights: we want companies and workers to benefit.” The vice president seems to be referring to the exposure of teleworkers to working more time from home than in the office.

New business and union culture. The vice president communicated that this proposal had been advanced to the components of the social dialogue table, among which is not ELA, the largest union in the region. The intention of this proposal, as Mendia pointed out in parliament, is for the government and social agents to move towards “a new business and union culture that guarantees the success of companies and, also, quality employment.”

What the employer says. Of the three areas that the Basque government wants to analyze, the four-day work week is the one that has attracted the most attention, generating quick reactions both among employers and unions. In this sense, Confebask, the Basque employers’ association, issued a release hours after Mendia’s announcement in which they showed their rejection of the proposal to test the four-day work week and announced their vote against: “the current economic situation of crisis and uncertainty only allows us to deal with solutions and practical commitments to, together, get out of the current difficult situation, ”said the employers’ association.

Union position. For her part, Loli García, general secretary of the CCOO of Euskadi express his satisfaction with Mendia’s suggestion to try the four-day work week. García affirmed that it is an issue that the union has been claiming “for a long time”, and confirmed that CCOO will work at the social dialogue table so that “it can materialize” and extend “to the maximum number of workplaces”. In addition, García affirmed that “it is necessary” to work on a distribution of working time so that we can all have a higher quality job.

The challenges of Euskadi. On the other hand, Idoia Mendia stated in statements to La Vanguardia that the four-day work week can be a mechanism to attract workers who “not only seek a better salary, but also greater flexibility and conciliation.” In this sense, the White Paper on Employment in the Basque Country published by the ISEAK Foundation. According to the text, the Basque Autonomous Community is facing a triple demographic, technological and climatic challenge, which is why it is necessary to establish innovative policies to combat it.

Missing workers. In fact, Confebask communicated in December 2022 that the Basque Country will need around 400,000 workers in the next decade to deal with the number of retirements that will take place until 2030. “More birthrates, yes, but more immigration for employment, too (…). Even if the entire Basque population living outside the Basque Country returned, we would not solve the lack of people and talent,” the organization’s spokespersons stated, according to Information.

Answer. In short, the Basque government contemplates the four-day work week, without salary reduction, as a way to attract the most talented workers and thus face the difficulties that population aging poses for the future of employment in the region. In this sense, it should be noted that the Basque Country was, in 2020, the second oldest region in the entire EU.

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Varun Kumar

Varun Kumar is a freelance writer working on news website. He contributes to Our Blog and more. Wise also works in higher ed sustainability and previously in stream restoration. He loves running, trees and hanging out with her family.

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