WIN Short: Sweden: Shorter Work Days, Higher Productivity

This is special feature is produced by Democracy at Work for Workers Independent News. This is Richard Wolff for Democracy at Work.

I want to report to you today about an experiment made in the city of Gothenburg, Sweden by a work of workers supervised by the city council in that city. Under the pressure of a left wing political party that has seats on that city council, the experiment was as follows.

The argument was made that workers in Sweden who have for 40 years had a 40 hour work week, that workers in Sweden were reporting in sick more and more often and were increasingly taking early retirement and felt that was because work exhausted them. So the left wing party made a proposal that the city council expected. ‘Let us try and take a group of workers reduce their work week from 40 hours a week to 30. And the way this worked was each workday, five days a week, would be 6 hours long and not 8 hours long.

Well the experiment was done and as reported in the New York Times on May 21st, here are the results. Workers were much, much happier; workers were sick much less often; workers felt no need to retire early; and workers were more productive, so much so that the supervisors and employers in question felt that they gained more in the extra productivity in workers than they lost in the time. Yes, that’s right. An initiative from below, something opposed by the employer turned out to be better for everyone, even the employer, who opposed it.

Just think what an economic system would be like that enabled, empowered and encouraged workers to have the initiative because they stood to gain from making conditions better for themselves. It is an important lesson.

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