German finance minister opposes four-day workweek

Germany’s finance chief doesn’t believe in a four-day working week.

Finance Minister Christian Lindner expressed his clear opposition to unions who wish to reduce the number of working hours without a corresponding reduction in wages.

“Never in history has a society increased its prosperity by working less,” he said Friday evening at an event in Switzerland, in comments reported by Bloomberg.

Germans, however, are mostly in favor of the idea, according to a widely cited survey by the union-funded Hans Böckler Institute.

According to his figures, 73% of Germans support switch to a four-day work week, assuming they receive the same pay. Only 8% would accept a pay cut, while 17% would categorically oppose it.

A number of German companies facing a shortage of skilled labor have begun experimenting with the idea, instituting longer workdays of nine hours, or even ten hours, in exchange for an extra day for them- same. Researchers say this may lead to a more optimal outcome, citing more motivated workers and fewer sick days as possible benefits.

This prompted German industrial union IG Metall to declare the 32-hour work week with full pay as a goal for the next round of collective bargaining. The first test should start with the steel industry when wage negotiations for 80,000 workers across most of the country begin next week.

These negotiations typically feature union leaders starting with maximalist demands, before meeting with middle employers, against the backdrop of Germany’s consensual culture that grants unions seats on company boards.

Tycoons say working longer is a patriotic duty

Business owners in other parts of the world, however, have been less enthusiastic and react strongly to the idea of ​​working less, or even just working part of the week from home.

Billionaire founder of Infosys and one of India’s richest businessmen, Narayana Murthy, recently urged his employees to devote 70 hours of their time per week to their employer as a patriotic duty to the nation.

“Our young people need to say ‘this is my country, I want to work 70 hours a week,'” Murthy said.

Meanwhile, Tesla’s largest shareholder and CEO, Elon Musk, became angry during his most recent quarterly earnings call when the mere idea of ​​working from home came up.

When asked last month whether his strategy of cutting Tesla car prices to boost vehicle sales would not work, he defended the policy before saying remote working was socially decadent.

“Why did I sleep so many times at the factory?” » said Musk, who also runs a major manufacturing plant in Germany. “Because it was important.”

Although not an entrepreneur himself, German Finance Minister Lindner has reason to oppose pro-labor policies that go beyond simply trying to improve his government’s bottom line. poor economic record.

Lindner heads Germany’s liberal coalition party, the Free Democrats, whose core constituency is small business owners and self-employed workers, likely most concerned about the potential risk of a four-day work week for their competitiveness.

“The key to our prosperity remains hard work,” insisted Lindner.

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