Greece goes against the flow by opting for a six day working week

While countries around the world are exploring the idea of shorter work weeks, Greece has taken what many people may think is a surprising step in the opposite directionWhile countries around the world are exploring the idea of shorter work weeks, Greece has taken what many people may think is a surprising step in the opposite direction. In an effort to boost productivity, the country has implemented a mandatory six-day workweek for certain employees.

This move comes despite Greece’s recent economic recovery following its financial crisis. However, the government argues that a shrinking population and lack of skilled workers threaten this progress. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has called the demographic shift a “ticking timebomb.” Many young Greeks have emigrated in recent years, leaving a significant labour gap.

The new law only applies to specific private businesses that operate 24/7. Employees in these sectors will have the option to work an extra two hours per day or an additional eight-hour shift. To incentivize these extra hours, the government is offering a 40 percent pay increase on the daily wage.

The government claims this initiative will address the problems of unpaid overtime and undeclared work. However, critics, including labour unions, are sceptical. They fear this is the end of the traditional five-day workweek, with employers essentially dictating a mandatory sixth day.

The UK’s CIPD has criticised the move.  “This is a significant backward step,” says Ben Willmott, head of public policy. Longer working weeks don’t give people time to adequately rest and recharge and could negatively impact their wellbeing and their ability to work productively.

“The focus for improving productivity should be on smarter working, rather than increasing work intensity or longer working hours. This means organisations investing more in technology and people management and development capability. Improvements to people management practices and responsible adoption of AI and other forms of technology also have the potential to enhance job quality and improve people’s work-life balance.”

Greek unions say the reform is an erosion of worker protections and a rollback of hard-won rights. They argue that better productivity comes from improved working conditions and a higher quality of life for employees, which they believe should translate to less hours worked, not more.

They point out that Greece already has the longest working hours in Europe, averaging 41 hours per week. Unions point out that despite these long hours, Greek workers are paid significantly less than their European counterparts. This disparity, they argue, is fuelling the brain drain of young, educated Greeks.

Pensioners have also been drawn into the debate. The government’s encouragement for them to work under this new law has been met with criticism. Critics argue that this is simply an attempt to exploit cheap labour, particularly given the low average monthly salary in Greece.

Image: From “Penelope then during the day she wove the large web, which at night she unravelled, The Odyssey”, Thomas Seddon 1852