Tuesday 28 March 2023

Costa Rica moves away from the European trend of working days of less than 40 hours a week

A study by the University of Cambridge and Boston College in the United Kingdom showed great benefits of reducing the working day to 32 hours a week in a 4x3 modality

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28 March 2023 - At The Banks - BCCR

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QCOSTARICA – While in Costa Rica a bill is being discussed that intends to modify labor legislation to implement the 4×3 shift, which proposes an extended shift of 12 hours a day for 4 days a week, with 3 days off in a row, in many countries of the world the 48-hour work week has been changing.

In Costa Rica, the 4×3 proposal is to increase the work week to 48 hours and at the same pay, while in other countries it is being reduced

There are even nations that have implemented 36, 35 and even 32 hours of work per week with great productive success.

The bill being discussed by Costa Rica’s lawmakers would establish that the 12 hours a day would be paid regular, and the person would not be allowed to work overtime in excess of 12 hours a day, but only on days off, which would be agreed between the employer and the employee.

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Those who are in favor, especially business chambers, ensure that this favors productivity and opponents question the absence of studies that demonstrate a benefit in this regard. In contrast, many countries are choosing to establish the 4×3 working day, but with less hours worked.

Precisely, in the United Kingdom, a test has been carried out in the last six months to determine the success of establishing a day of four days of work and three days of rest. But it is not a proposal like the one being promoted in Costa Rica. However, in the UK the working hours are reduced to 32 per week and not the 48 in being proposed in Costa Rica.

Various international media revealed that most of the 61 companies that participated in this trial (56 in total) decided to extend the trial period and 18 adopted it definitively, keeping their workers’ wages intact.

The trial was conducted in conjunction with the University of Cambridge and Boston College and has yielded amazing results.

The RFI published about the results of this test, noting that employees reported a wide range of benefits in sleep quality, stress levels, personal life and mental health. The income of the companies was maintained, it did not affect their productivity; sick leave and resignations decreased. (See Would you prefer a four-day working week?)

In Spain, a change in the legislation is currently being discussed to incorporate the 4×3 shift, aiming at a reduction in working hours to 32 weeks, and to begin with, a test will be carried out with 200 companies, to which the Spanish Government will contribute 10 million euros and it is estimated that it will reach 3,000 to 6,000 workers.

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According to OECD studies, in which they track effective hours of work, they show that, for example, the average work week in Norway is 38 hours, in Belgium full-time employees work an average of 38.8 hours, and in Finland the average is 39.3 hours, while the average in Italy is 39.5 hours.

In France, for more than two decades, the working day has been changed from 40 to 35 hours a week, although along the way it has become more flexible so that some companies exceed the ceiling established by law.

Angela Martí is a Costa Rican who lives in France and told SEMANA UNIVERSIDAD that opinions are divided on the success of this event, especially because the promised jobs were not created, and many question the impact on public finances.

“Before, you worked 39 hours a week, it went down to 35 with the same salary, not all companies have applied it. It seems good to me, because they are not so exhausting days and, if extra hours are accumulated, they can be combined with vacations, I consider that it is a better quality of life,” Martí explained.

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However, she did warn that the measure was more difficult for small and medium-sized companies since they did not have the conditions to employ more people while reducing the hours of their employees.

In this sense, the International Labor Organization (ILO) recently issued a report called Working time and the balance between work and private life in the world, in which it pointed out that longer working hours, in general, are associated with lower productivity, while shorter hours are associated with higher productivity.

The echo for Costa Rica

Frente Amplio legislator, Sofía Guillén, drew attention to the fact that developed countries are aspiring to reduce working hours, not only because it increases the quality of life of working people, but also because it implies greater productivity, something that the Cambridge UK study and other pilot plans that have been implemented in other countries.

The legislator argued that there is evidence that there is a daily productive curve that goes from 6 to 8 hours, beyond that productivity is reduced because “we are not machines”, and for many branches having a person 12 or 14 hours working means exhaustion.

“With these investigations in the United Kingdom, Finland and even in North America, it has been possible to determine that it does not make sense to increase the daily shift, as is intended in Costa Rica with the 4×3 shift, because it increases the probability of risks and inefficiencies in production. In these countries, they did opt for a day of 4 working days and 3 days off, but maintaining working hours and even reducing them”, added Guillén.

This article was originally published in Spanish in Semanario Universidad and adapted by the Q

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"Rico" is the crazy mind behind the Q media websites, a series of online magazines where everything is Q! In these times of new normal, stay at home. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

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