Four-day working week can improve wellbeing and reduce social inequality

four day working weekResearch from the University of Kent has shown how a national four-day working week can positively impact workers and their families’ wellbeing, improve social cohesion and reduce social inequality. In a paper published by the Journal of Social Policy, Professor Heejung Chung from Kent’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research discusses how a shorter working week can help tackle issues by giving workers the ‘right to time’, shifting a balance between work and non-work activities in daily life.

The research paper titled ‘A Social Policy Case for a Four-Day Week’ is published by the Journal of Social Policy.

Professor Chung suggests that a four-day week:

  • Reduces social inequality as a long-hours work culture is at the core of labour market inequality – especially pushing women out and penalising part-time working women
  • Can help address the wellbeing of families, as time with parents can support children’s emotional, psychological and cognitive development
  • Enables people to spend more time outside of work, which means society can start valuing contributions made by individuals in ‘non-paid work’ e.g. volunteering
  • Enhance social cohesion, as long-hours work culture can relate to stigmatised views about the unemployed and workers working flexibly etc.
  • Can help those with other responsibilities to access the labour market

Several organisations are due to take part in the UK trials of a four-day week pilot programme from June-November 2022. The four-day week pilot is a movement set to shorten the working hours of full-time workers without a reduction in pay. Yet, Professor Chung cautions that company-led approaches could result in more segmentation in society and that intervention at a state-level would instead provide a nudge for companies to value workers’ time and efficiency.

Professor Chung said: ‘Without a national move towards a four-day week, long-hours work culture will continue to result in many societal costs. State-level interventions can adequately help to address some of the key challenges we face as a society.’

Some of the complexities of the four day working week are explored in an extended feature in the new issue of IN Magazine.