Swiss political party pushes for 24-hour working week
In a new announcement, the Young Greens have called for a 24-hour working week for all jobs in Switzerland. The leaders of the movement argued that the climate cannot sustain continued economic growth and that Swiss working hours are harmful to human health and wellbeing.
Young Greens say working hours are too long
In a statement given to Watson, Young Greens co-president Julia Küng said that "the working hours in Switzerland are far too long. Not only is it harmful to health, but it also has a negative impact on the environment." She claimed that constant economic growth shouldn't be a priority, and that for the sake of climate change, the economy needed to slow or even shrink.
Küng argued that a 24-hour working week would allow workers more time for "environmental protection activities, social relationships and community involvement." To make the policy possible, the Young Greens called for a “socially just” alignment of salaries in Switzerland, with the co-president noting the idea will only work “if we finally give [the money] to the people who really work for it - not to the large corporations and shareholders.”
Continual effort to reduce working hours in Switzerland
The new plan is one of a number of attempts to reduce working hours in Switzerland. For example, the Social Democratic Party (SP) submitted a plan last December to "take measures to reduce working hours to a maximum of 35 hours per week within 10 years," while keeping wages the same. Justifying the idea, lead signatory Tamara Funiciello said that the population would be “healthier and happier” if the working week was shortened.
The Unia trade union echoed the comments, noting that the idea was “a step towards a fairer society,” although they admitted there was still a lack of enthusiasm from employers. Christoph Bader, from the University of Bern, agreed that when workers are given shorter working hours, "It has been proven that the well-being of employees increases, unemployment tends to decrease, and at the same time productivity remains the same or even increases."
Shorter working hours divide Swiss economists
Others are not so keen on reducing working hours in Switzerland, with the Federal Council stating in December 2021 that "less working hours, higher wages or lower prices" should be only negotiated between employers and employees, not the government. When calling on the National Council to reject the SP proposal, which they eventually did, they said that the idea was "not necessary and could be unnecessarily restrictive or even counterproductive."
Economists are equally divided over the effect of shorter working hours, with Reto Föllmi from the University of St. Gallen arguing that "if fewer hours are worked, the performance of the economy as a whole falls." However, despite advising against shorter working hours, Föllmi admitted that “employees are currently in a good negotiating position with employers” when it comes to signing new work contracts, as staff shortages remain a reality in most sectors.