Joan Sanchis (Benigànim, 33 years old), associate professor of Applied Economics at the University of Valencia, passionately defends the four-day day. He has an argument prepared for every doubt about this revolutionary policy, which he has tried to promote during his time as an advisor in the Ministry of Sustainable Economy of the Generalitat Valenciana. He condenses these ideas in Four Days (Barlin Books), a book in which he proposes "working less to live in a better world."
Question. What is the main reason why you think companies should implement the four-day day?
Answer. On the one hand, the improvement of productivity. Long hours are unprofitable, in Spain we know it very well. And, on the other hand, the retention and recruitment of talent, especially in sectors where competition for labor is high, such as technology.
Q. Is it viable in all sectors? Also in those that depend on intensive labor, such as hospitality?
A. History proves it. Over the past 200 years we have been able to improve productivity and it has been compatible with reductions in working time. But it is clear that the current economic fabric is not the most homogeneous one it was then. This requires that reductions be channelled in a more pluralistic way. Each sector has to be able to adapt these demands to its needs.
Q. Some sectors of society have dismissed the four-day debate as elitist. What do you think is the reason for this reaction?
A. There is part of it. It is true that the sectors where this measure is advancing the most are very well paid. This is normal, debates have always been opened in leading sectors. During industrialization it took place in industry and not in agriculture. The question is whether we are able to extend this dynamic to the rest of the economy. I am optimistic because this debate is asking new questions. For example, why have we been working 40 hours for more than a hundred years? I think it is opening a conversation between companies, workers and associations that can lead to a change of perspective. Now we have new arguments on the table, which have to do with gender equality or the fight against climate change. It is one of the few measures that can bring together widely divergent interests.
Q. As I mentioned before, the working day has not changed for more than a century. And something that many experts agree on is that in recent years workers have lost power, that the labor market is atomizing. Is the working class in a better position than in previous stages to achieve this reduction?
A. I don't know if we're in a better position, but we're in a different one. Throughout history the reduction of working time has been driven by a workerist vision, through the unions. What we see over the past few decades is a stagnation of this possibility, partly because unions have set their priorities on issues such as improving wages, given the loss of purchasing power in recent years. And it is normal that this has been the case.
We are seeing a new coalition of actors, including business, civil society, academia or political parties, quite strange in historical terms. For the first time there is a transformative horizon that can bring together different parties and that is not just a conflict between capital and labor. This for me is the interesting thing, and it is what can make the four-day working day work and be implemented even voluntarily in some companies. Obviously with all the precautions, since some companies are using this type of measures as a way to mask aggressions as an extreme flexibility of the working days.
Sanchis inside a Valencian bookstore. Monica Torres
Q. The state employs millions of workers to whom it could apply the four-day day. Would it be a good idea for this to serve as an example for the private sector?
A. Absolutely, yes. But it doesn't have to be the only step. Focusing only on the public sector, which would be the easiest, would be a mistake: it can give the impression that public employees are privileged. Taking into account, in addition, that in the public sector the average working day is already lower. The important work is to develop new proactive policies in conjunction with grassroots regulation.
Q. What role does teleworking play in the four-day day? Are they related or are they independent debates?
A. It's all related. What underlies all these debates is an amendment to the belief that face-to-face is enough to be productive, to this sacrosanct face-to-face that in our country is very evident. It is an amendment that calls for organising work in a flexible way, through teleworking or four-day or 32-hour days.
Q. Who or what is the main enemy of the four-day day?
A. The only enemies are a part of the business class that is still focused on obsolete and completely outdated competitive strategies. They are not able to see beyond the medium long term. Obviously there are some in Spain, right?
All those people capable of seeing beyond know that addressing organizational transformations today can result in productive improvements in a few years. The empirical evidence available, the pilot tests that have been done, show that it is a measure that can work. It is not a magic wand, it needs the cooperation of companies, training of workers and more conditions, but it has the potential to bring together companies, employees and all civil society in a proposal that offers us to live better. Work less to live better.
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