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New Zealand Prime Minister flags four-day working week to boost economy

New Zealand Prime Minister flags four-day working week to boost economy
May 20, 2020

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has suggested employers might consider a four-day working week and other flexible working options as a way to boost domestic tourism and help employees address persistent work/life balance issues.

With an impending opportunity to restructure the New Zealand economy for reopening, Prime Minister Ardern today commented that ideas for a shorter work week to more public holidays might stimulate the economy and encourage domestic tourism, while the borders remain closed to foreign nationals.

Made in a Facebook live video, Prime Minister Ardern’s informal comments suggest that New Zealanders might enjoy more free time in the future – leaving them more time to engage in a range of leisure activities.

Speaking from Rotorua, one of the country’s tourist hubs, Prime Minister Ardern said many New Zealanders said they would travel more domestically if they had more flexibility in their working lives, advising “I hear lots of people suggesting we should have a four-day workweek. Ultimately that really sits between employers and employees.

“But … there’s just so much we’ve learnt about COVID-19 and that flexibility of people working from home, the productivity that can be driven out of that.

“I’d really encourage people to think about that if you’re an employer and in a position to do so. To think about if that’s something that would work for your workplace because it certainly would help tourism all around the country.”

With lockdowns and social distancing having resulted in record numbers of people working from home around the world while also reorganising the deployment of labour, Prime Minister Ardern’s suggestion of a new approach to work has reportedly proved popular with New Zealanders.

With economists having called Coronavirus induced changes the biggest workforce shift since the Second World War, a universal four-day week could improves the quality of life of the population, although whether it will deliver levels of productivity consistent with a five-day week remains to be seen.

However, with the growth of disposable income having been behind the expansion of leisure spending throughout the developed world over recent decades, the ability of people to make the most of increased free time will likely need to go-hand-in-hand with incomes returning to pre-Coronavirus levels and continuing to grow after that.

Image: Massey's Royal Reserve Playground. Courtesy of Auckland Council.

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