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OECD endorses a shorter working week in Spain to boost productivity

OECD endorses a shorter working week in Spain to boost productivity

It calls for monitoring the boom in permanent seasonal contracts after the labour reform so that they do not become "a new source of instability"

Lucía Palacios


Friday, 7 June 2024, 15:25

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The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the umbrella organisation that encompasses the world's most developed countries, favours the Spanish government's flagship measure of reducing the working hours of employees. It aims to see if Spain can tackle another of its endemic issues besides unemployment: its low productivity, which is well below the average.

However, the OECD also makes it clear that it prefers this to be done with the consent of the trade unions and employers, something that does not seem likely, given that negotiations to reduce the 40-hour week to 37.5 hours next year have stalled at the social dialogue table, with employers sceptical about implementing it through government imposition rather than through collective agreements.

This is one of the recommendations proposed by this 'think tank' in a report published on Wednesday to improve productivity in Spain. The country's productivity grows each year at less than half the rate of the OECD average: barely 0.5% compared to 1.2%. Thus, the OECD suggests that the government should "take advantage of the strong involvement of social partners in the realm of working time to promote a better understanding of the effects of a shorter workweek, facilitating policy experimentation and expanding the evidence base."

The OECD acknowledges that so far "there is only limited evidence on the impact of a shorter working week on productivity", but favours taking the risk of "more empirical evidence" as "there is clear evidence that very long working hours increase health risks and reduce job satisfaction and hourly labour productivity".

Mental health benefit

In this sense, a reduction in the number of hours worked per day is favoured, rather than a shift to working four days a week instead of five. "While a reduction in working time is likely to increase productivity and improve work-life balance, a reform that reduces the number of working days but at the same time increases their intensity by increasing daily hours may not."

Likewise, the OECD expressed its support for the labour reform that has suddenly reduced temporary employment, although it showed some reticence towards the boom of 'discontinuous permanent' workers (seasonal workers who have a permanent contract to work certain months a year, take a break and return the following year), which has doubled in the last two years. It called for this figure to be monitored at the social dialogue table so that they do not become "a new source of precariousness", as they offer "more job security, but some economic uncertainty in terms of their income". "Intermittent contracts have increased in this period of time and for the future it will be important, through social dialogue and collective bargaining, to monitor the use of this type of contract to ensure that they do not become a new source of precariousness for workers and that they can enjoy solid, indefinite contracts", the report stressed.

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