The success of Iceland’s ‘four-day week’ trial has been greatly overstated | The Conversation

Iceland has trialled shorter working hours, but not a four-day week.

It almost seems too good to be true: a major trial in Iceland shows that cutting the standard five-day week to four days for the same pay needn’t cost employers a cent (or, to be accurate, a krona).

Unfortunately it is too good to be true.

While even highly reputable media outlets such as the BBC have reported on the “overwhelming success” of large-scale trials of a four-day week in Iceland from 2015 to 2019, that’s not actually the case.

The truth is less spectacular — interesting and important enough in its own right, but not quite living up to the media spin, including that these trials have led to the widespread adoption of a four-day work week in Iceland.

Four hours at best

The media reports are based on a report co-published by Iceland’s Alda (Association for Democracy and Sustainability) and Britain’s Autonomy think tank about two trials involving Reykjavík City Council and the Icelandic government. The trials covered 66 workplaces and about 2,500 workers.

They did not involve a four-day work week. This is indicated by the report’s title – Going Public: Iceland’s journey to a shorter working week. In fact the document of more 80 pages refers to a four-day week just twice, in its first two paragraphs, and only then as a reference point for what the trials were actually about:

In recent years, calls for shorter working hours without a reduction in pay — often framed in terms of a ‘four-day week’ — have become increasingly prominent across Europe.

Going Public: Iceland's Journey to a Shorter Working Week, June 2021.
Going Public: Iceland’s Journey to a Shorter Working Week, June 2021.

Read on to the third paragraph and you’ll learn the study “involved two large-scale trials of shorter working hours — in which workers moved from a 40-hour to a 35- or 36-hour week, without reduced pay”.

Continue reading [hat tip to The success of Iceland’s ‘four-day week’ trial has been greatly overstated

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1 Response to The success of Iceland’s ‘four-day week’ trial has been greatly overstated | The Conversation

  1. I know that they tried something similar in the Netherlands, a 32 hours week. That was in the late 80s. And at that time a Dutch lady told me that this was the norm there. But the meaning was among others to get more people into work. When I researched on the Internet today, I read that the normal working hours in the Netherlands are 38 hours per week, and in some companies it is 36 in others even 40 hours. So they must have stopped the 32 hours week again.

    Liked by 2 people

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