Stretching the Days

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Greek businesses will be able to impose a six-day workweek on their employees starting this month, a measure that officials say is aimed at addressing Greece’s productivity issues – even as criticism by workers and labor unions has been fierce, Euronews reported Monday.

Starting in July, private sector employees working in industrial and manufacturing facilities, as well as businesses offering 24-hour services, could have a 48-hour workweek, instead of the current 40 hours.

The new measures will also apply to businesses in retail and agriculture. Food services and tourism are exempt.

Under the new law, employees will be paid 40 percent more for the extra hours – or 115 percent more if working on a Sunday – and can choose how they want to work the extra hours: They can either work two additional hours a day or a maximum of eight hours on the sixth day of the week, according to Business Insider.

The reform was first passed in September and ignited a huge backlash from opposition politicians and labor unions, prompting thousands of public sector workers to protest against the changes.

Critics and labor rights advocates warned that the reform “will kill off the five-day work week for good,” noting the bill will make the longer workweek the norm because of Greece’s poor history of conducting labor investigations.

Supporters, however, countered that the changes are necessary to tackle black market labor and boost employment.

Unemployment and a shrinking population have caused a decline in Greece’s labor productivity, which has left many employees working beyond their official hours without extra compensation.

Greeks work more than any of their counterparts in the European Union, as much as 39.8 hours a week. The European average is a little more than 36 hours per week, while US employees work about 35 hours a week on average.

Meanwhile, Greece’s plan to expand hours contrasts sharply with recent initiatives around the globe to reduce working days.

In April, Singapore announced plans for shorter workweeks and flexible hours. Iceland, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Spain have all tested four-day workweeks.

Of 61 UK companies observed in a 2022 trial, 54 continued the shorter week, with 31 making it permanent.

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