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Swiss trade union demands shorter work week

© Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Switzerland’s largest trade union issued a statement on Saturday demanding a “massive reduction” of working hours with full wage compensation for lower and income earners.

“Nowhere in Europe do people work as hard as in Switzerland. At present, employees work an average of 41.7 hours per week in a full-time job,” the union noted in a statement after its 66 delegates met in the Swiss capital, Bern.

While the number of hours worked has remained stable, the union noted that work intensity and speed are increasing. ”As a result, stress-related illnesses are on the increase. Employees become exhausted, fall ill or are excluded from the labour market,” it stated.

The statement did not define how many hours the union believes a person should work in a full-time job.

On average, a full-time employee in the wealthy nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) works 37 hours per week. The European Union average is 31.1 hours per week.

The union, which is opposed to plans to increase the retirement age in Switzerland, called for “more time to live instead of working longer and longer”. The productivity gains should finally benefit the people who generated them, it argued.

Several countries and companies around the world have been testing shorter work weeks, including Iceland, Sweden and New Zealand. Shorter work weeks have in many cases been associated with boosted productivity.

The idea has also gained traction during the coronavirus pandemic which has brought work-family balance into sharp focus amid lockdowns and home office requirements.

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SWI – the international service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC). Since 1999, has fulfilled the federal government’s mandate to distribute information about Switzerland internationally, supplementing the online offerings of the radio and television stations of the SBC. Today, the international service is directed above all at an international audience interested in Switzerland, as well as at Swiss citizens living abroad.
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