The United Kingdom’s (UK) Trade Union Congress (TUC), European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) and other organizations are calling for a reduced working week, which ETUI researchers argue would deliver benefits of less stress, higher worker satisfaction and increased gender equality.

At its annual Congress earlier this month, the TUC’s Director General, Frances O’Grady, said that advances in technology mean that a four-day work week by the end of this century was a realistic goal for most people.

The TUC joins a Europe-wide movement to reduce the working week in order to reduce stress and share the benefits of improvements in productivity brought about by automation and digitalisation. ETUI research has found that one in three employees in the EU wants to work less. Other union federations that have also called for a shorter working week include the Belgian FGTB and the Netherlands’ FNV. Earlier this month the Austrian GPA-djp union recently organised (at the invitation of the European Services Federation, Uni Europa) a two-day conference on the theme, ‘Working time models for the future'.

The TUC has called for a working group involving government, employers and unions, to look at the issue of reduced working time. According to Planet Labor, TUC research shows that 8 out of 10 workers in the UK would like to lower their working time and would be happy to work a 4-day week for an equivalent salary.

Data shows that working time in Europe is falling on average, with employees working almost one hour less per week than ten years ago. However, most of the fall has come from the spread of involuntary part-time employment, with those in full-time employment seeing no reduction in their working week.

Reflecting the growing interest in the topic, the ETUI last year published a practical guide for negotiators. ‘The How and Why of Working Time Reduction’ shows that there is no ‘one best way’ of reducing working time but, rather, the design of any experiment in shorter working hours should be adapted according to the circumstances.