Ardern now proposing a four day working week

On Tuesday the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern proposed having more public holidays to help promote internal tourism to aid recovery from the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. That was criticised, including by NZ First – see Extra public holiday proposal squashed by NZ First.

Yesterday Ardern upped the ante, suggesting changing to a four day working week to help boost retail recovery.

NZ Herald:  Jacinda Ardern floats four-day working week as part of recovery

New Zealand is considering introducing a four-day working week to help boost domestic tourism, productivity and employment after the Covid-19 crisis battered the economy.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern flagged the idea of using the shorter working week and additional public holidays as part of a “nimble” and creative approach to resuscitating the economy.

Ardern pointed out the pandemic had taught the country much about productivity as workers adjusted to lockdown.

“I hear lots of people suggesting we should have a four-day work week,” she said.

“Ultimately, that really sits between employers and employees. But as I’ve said there’s just so much we’ve learnt about Covid and that flexibility of people working from home, the productivity that can be driven out of that,” Ardern said.

“Think about if that’s something that would work for your workplace, because it certainly would help tourism all around the country.”

This suggests the Government isn’t considering making a four day week mandatory, but more that companies could consider it.

The issue was raised in January: Government holds back support for four-day working week

The four-day week has been promoted in New Zealand by Perpetual Guardian, which found that it boosted productivity among its staff by 20 per cent.

Finland’s new Prime Minister Sanna Marin has reportedly called for the introduction of a flexible working schedule that would involve a four-day-week and six-hour working day.

Charlotte Lockhart, chief executive of 4 Day Week, the company set up to publicise the concept, said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern should follow Marin’s lead.

Legislating for a four-day week would be difficult, she said, because of the variables involved.

But Ardern could make a significant difference by indicating her support. “It would be great if she made even a public statement … to come out and say there’s real merit in this and we’d like to engage in the process.”

There was widespread support for the idea around the world, she said.

For some businesses it may boost productivity and cut costs, but for other businesses it would likely reduce custom, for example in hospitality, tourism and retail, who tend to operate seven day weeks.

Employment Minister Willie Jackson said it was not part of the Government’s work programme.

Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said the Government supported workers and businesses working together to make their workplaces more flexible.

Ardern is now suggesting that companies consider four day weeks and more working from home, but there’s no sign of the Government making it compulsory.

Some employees are already on four day weeks anyway due to a reduction in hours (and pay) due to Covid.

Website: 4 day week

Finland’s basic income trial boosted ‘wellbeing’ but not employment

New Zealand isn’t the only country trying to improve wellbeing.

Reuters:  Finland’s basic income trial boosts happiness but not employment

Finland’s basic income scheme did not spur its unemployed recipients to work more to supplement their earnings as hoped but it did help their wellbeing, researchers said on Friday as the government announced initial findings.

The two-year trial, which ended a month ago, saw 2,000 Finns, chosen randomly from among the unemployed, become the first Europeans to be paid a regular monthly income by the state that was not reduced if they found work.

Finland — the world’s happiest country last year, according to the United Nations — is exploring alternatives to its social security model.

The trial was being watched closely by other governments who see a basic income as a way of encouraging the unemployed to take up often low-paid or temporary work without fear of losing their benefits. That could help reduce dependence on the state and cut welfare costs, especially as greater automation sees humans replaced in the workforce.

Finland’s minister of health and social affairs Pirkko Mattila said the impact on employment of the monthly pay cheque of 560 euros ($635) “seems to have been minor on the grounds of the first trial year”.

But participants in the trial were happier and healthier than the control group.

“The basic income recipients of the test group reported better wellbeing in every way (than) the comparison group,” chief researcher Olli Kangas said.

Chief economist for the trial Ohto Kanniainen said the low impact on employment was not a surprise, given that many jobless people have few skills or struggle with difficult life situations or health concerns.

“Economists have known for a long time that with unemployed people financial incentives don’t work quite the way some people would expect them to,” he added.

Giving unemployed people more money should improve their wellbeing and it should also help with improving happiness if it makes it easier for them to survive financially.

But going by this, on it’s own it isn’t a solution to unemployment.

If so then the question for a basic income is how much more money a country wants (and can afford) to give people living on benefits. The amount could make a significant difference – if they make it too generous then it’s likely more people will choose unemployment as a financially viable option, further increasing the costs.

I wonder if Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson have something like this in mind for their ‘wellbeing’ budget.