Is a four-day-working week possible in Serbia?

A 4-day working week trial has begun in the UK, in 70 companies, with the aim of seeing how reduced working hours affect worker productivity and satisfaction.

The UK is not the only country where employees are being given more days off; Belgium, Spain, Japan, New Zealand, Denmark, and Iceland are also doing the same experiment. Although workers in Serbia would definitely want the same, companies believe it is unrealistic for this to happen soon.

The experiences of countries where this research has been conducted have shown that workers’ productivity has increased and they have done much more work in a shorter time.

The work week in Serbia lasts 40 hours, although overtime hours are often many and unpaid. Supermarket and store chains, for example, have failed to make Sunday a day off for their workers, unlike their counterparts in Western countries. For many, the work week lasts 6 days. There is a problem though with workers who are paid by the hour because shortening their working week would imply less income for them.

The president of the Association of Free and Independent Trade Unions, Ranka Savić, says that Serbia is far behind EU countries in terms of workers’ rights, but that changes will be made to the length of the working week one day.

“In a year’s time we will talk about it much more seriously. Employers in the EU are increasingly opting for this because we are all tired after the pandemic, the workforce is quite exhausted, and there is a problem with shortage of workers. On the other hand, the war in Ukraine, shortages and high energy prices have led many to think about ways to save money, and one of those big savings could be made if we cut the working week to four days,” Savić told Euronews Serbia.

Although it sounds fantastic to employees, employers would benefit the most from shorter working week. Of course, it is not possible to introduce such a way of working in all economic branches at the same time, but Savic says we could start with the IT industry and the state administration. The United Arab Emirates introduced a four-and-a-half-day working week for civil servants earlier this year, so they work standard hours Monday through Thursday and on Friday they work from 7:30 a.m. to noon.

A shorter working week would be the most difficult to implement in retail and food industry. This would imply hiring extra people. In Serbia, it is often not possible to do the planned daily work in 8 hours, so people stay at work for 10 or even 12 hours.

“We work overtime because the work system is disorganized and we have outdated technologies and machines. People spend much more time working but that does not translate in greater results. In Europe, what we do in seven days, they do in four.  That’s why it is not the workforce that is at fault but the employer who is not organized and has not modernized the production process by introducing new technologies and new machines,” Savic warns.

(Euronews, 12.06.2022)

This post is also available in: Italiano

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