Image default

“Self-determined working hours is possible everywhere”


The 35-hour week applies to railway employees. A concept for the entire German labor market? No, says Enzo Weber from the Institute for Labor Market and Vocational Research in an interview tagesschau24. Instead, it must become a personal choice.

tagesschau24: Mr. Weber, should the 35-hour or four-day week be introduced generally and everywhere?

Enzo Weber: I would definitely advise against it in general and everywhere. Many people simply don't want that. There are employees who want to work four days – but many don't. This also changes over the course of life.

Accordingly, I recommend more self-determination: Anyone who wants four days should be able to get it and anyone who wants five days should get it. So at the end there is an “X-day week”: the optional working hours. I would think that makes sense. And the collective bargaining agreement at the railway goes in this direction.

tagesschau24: In your opinion, is such an option model an option for all industries or are there exceptions?

Weber: I would say that this type of self-determined working time is basically possible everywhere. This is exactly what is required today – the ability to take your working hours into your own hands. The important thing is that if everyone works individually, everything has to be organized sensibly. And I would advise that a team is really organized collaboratively – that colleagues agree with each other on how they want to work together. This brings motivation and identification with your own work.

A decision for each individual?

tagesschau24: However, there is currently a noticeable shortage of skilled workers in Germany. Doesn't it get worse when there are too few employees and they then work even less?

Weber: I wouldn't generally assume – as is now the case with the railway example – that all employees want to reduce their hours to 35. Our surveys show: Yes, some employees want that. But some full-time employees also want to work more than 40 hours and many are somewhere in the middle range.

Basically, we should think about the question: Do we want to maximize the number of working hours in order to have as much material prosperity as possible? Or fewer working hours and more private time? And shouldn't we leave this trade-off between time and material wealth to each individual? I would think that would make much more sense.

tagesschau24: But when we talk about material prosperity, then we are also talking about general prosperity for Germany, right?

Weber: That's right. But Germany is made up of all the people who live in this country. No decision can be made that everyone has to work more or vice versa. We should lower the barriers so that people can balance jobs with their lives as best as possible. So that they enjoy working and are therefore really productive.

Less work means less Economic performance

tagesschau24: But not every employee would be able to complete a workload of 40 hours in 35 hours?

Weber: Correct. We cannot assume that if we work less and are in such a good mood that we will still get just as much done. If you work less, you end up with less economic output. But we have to decide socially: What should be optimal? However, no one can decide what is optimal for each individual person. Accordingly, we must leave the choice to the people.

And by the way: If men were to cut back their working hours a little, then women could perhaps receive so much additional support in family work that a “kick-off” in women's professional development, as is currently the case, would no longer occur. There's actually still something to be won.

tagesschau24: In the USA it is often said: “We live to work and Europeans work to live.” Could this perhaps be a reason why the US economy is doing so much better than the EU?

Weber: That's an age-old cliché – I'm cautious about it. But we should actually ensure that people really enjoy working again. Because commitment to the job and identification with the company have definitely fallen, even before the corona pandemic. We should counteract this again. Because you spend so much of your life working, conditions should be created so that employees really enjoy the job and do the best they can. This is how we can also deal with demographic change.

tagesschau24: Thank you for the interview, Mr. Weber.

The interview was edited and shortened for the written version.

Related posts

Leave a Comment

* By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.