The right to work less

I see the 34 year old Finnish Prime Minister, Sanna Marin, is in favour of a 4 day 24 hour working week.

So far so encouraging, and for all those who suggest that it will be fine for some but no good for the ambulance service or doctors, it is worth noting that where these ideas have been tried (see, for example, Gothenberg, Sweeden) the evidence suggests that less work hours takes time pressure off and results in greater personal well-being. Sickness is reduced so it seems to have reduced demand in the healthcare sector and, combined with medical training expansion, it could well, in due course enable a reduction in hours.

The article suggests the experiment was resource neutral after a couple of years:

And the costs were stable: More employees were hired, which resulted in more tax revenue. In Addition to that, fewer sick days, fewer invalidity pensions and fewer people unemployed saved money.

Trials in the Netherlands and New Zealand suggest that productivity can be improved with shorter hours, such that there is interest even in the US.

Whilst the tyranny of the clock is in any case a child of the industrial revolution and the train, it should also be noted that all the arguments against a reduction in working hours have all been used before, first for the disasters that would ensue from banning children in mills or up chimneys, then for shortening the adult working day or even for what became the institution of the weekend. Never mind a similar line of arguing against the minimum wage.

The idea that a shorter working week cannot be considered has no substance.

If living a better life is to mean anything it may very well require it.


  1. ian Deare -

    I requested a shorter week, because of serious, ongoing, long term health issues, and my insane six hour daily commute. Flat refusal, and I work for the NHS, the one employer you’d expect sympathy, and understanding from!

    1. Peter May -

      Sad to learn that – and as you say.

  2. Bill Hughes -

    Life expectancy is now going down in the UK. A lot of this probably due to the absurd increase in working hours over the last 30 years or so plus the unrelenting brutal manergialist/target driven working practices that are being imposed. Stress levels increase and effects physical health as well. Add the effects of increasing pollution, noise levels, bad junk food diets (not forgetting austerity) and the picture becomes bleaker still.

    1. Peter May -

      Agreed although strictly speaking I think you’ll find that life expectancy is now barely increasing whereas it used to be obviously longer. We, or our governments at least, seem to delight it making our lives more difficult!

  3. christine bergin -

    The juxtaposition of yesterdays article and this one strike me as a very happy coincidence. Given that people are being told to work harder by some but also encouraged to work ‘smarter’ by others then it must follow that better education has got to be a priority so we can use our brains to facilitate the ‘smarter’ use of our time.

    1. Peter May -


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