Czech companies join German workers in calling for shorter work week

Although the idea of a four-day work week has grown in popularity, Czechia's low unemployment rate and high vacancies make this unlikely – for now.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 05.02.2024 16:35:00 (updated on 05.02.2024) Reading time: 2 minutes

Some Czech companies are looking to follow in the footsteps of their European neighbors by calling for a decrease in working hours to improve employees’ work-life balance. However, economists are skeptical as the Czech Republic currently faces low unemployment rates, making it challenging to implement such changes.

A six-day strike by German railway workers nationwide in January led to state rail carrier Deutsche Bahn promising its workers a slight reduction in working hours. France, Belgium, and the UK have piloted similar projects, such as introducing a four-day work week.

Czechia not well-placed for shorter work week

Despite some companies’ enthusiasm, implementing a shortened work week in Czechia is not straightforward. “In countries such as the Czech Republic, where companies have problems finding employees for vacant positions, reducing working hours would lead to significant economic losses,” chief economist of investment services BH Securities Štěpán Křček told Czech media outlet Seznam Zprávy. This makes the widescale adoption of a shorter working week in Czechia less likely.

Are you in favor of a four-day work week in Czechia?

Absolutely 88 %
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"About 272,000 jobs are currently unfilled. If working hours were to be reduced, the number of unfilled jobs would probably increase,” Křček adds.

Other economists also believe the country is not yet ready for widespread implementation. The chief economist of Trinity Bank Lukáš Kovanda believes that while smaller companies may choose to adopt a shorter work week independently (some have already done so), there is no current directive or initiative from the government to do so.

FOUR DAYS OF WORK: THE STATS

  • A 2023 survey found that 67 percent of respondents view a four-day workweek positively. The number stood at 61 percent in 2021.
  • Thirty percent of employees believe that a four-day workweek would fulfill all company responsibilities.
  • Over 80 percent of 18-26 year-olds view a four-day work week positively.
  • Among people older than 36 years old, less than two-thirds support a four-day work week.
  • For those in their 50s or 60s, 77 percent would "definitely or somewhat" agree to a four-day work week.
  • Men are generally more skeptical than women with regards to a shorter work week, with 7 percent of men expressing absolute disapproval compared to less than 2 percent among women.
  • About 65 percent of employees believe they would dedicate more time to their work if the work week were shortened.

    Sources: Moore Czech Republic, ManpowerGroup

The Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions (ČMKOS) also confirms that a shortened working week is not currently under discussion as a solution to labor issues. ČMKOS vice-chairman Vít Samek explains: "Employers oppose a shorter work week by pointing to the lack of employees on the labor market. Today, for this reason, they would be more comfortable with an extension of working hours."

Samek also adds that employers would be more likely to offer a shorter working week if competitors did the same. Presently, a four-day work week is rare in Czechia, with firms continuing with the status quo of making employees work Monday to Friday.

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