Is Greece’s six-day work week an option in Canada?

Is Greece’s six-day work week an option in Canada?
Is Greece’s six-day work week an option in Canada?

Greece introduced a six-day work week for some on July 1 in a bid to overcome what has been called an economic “ticking time bomb,” the combination of a shortage of skilled workers and a shrinking population.

As some Canadian companies explore offering staff a four-day work week, experts are watching Greece’s move closely and suggest it could work in Canada.

“Potentially, it’s a good idea,” said Mark Colgate, an associate dean with the University of Victoria’s Gustavson School of Business.

The Greek government’s new legislation partially stems from the 2009 debt crisis, which led to hundreds of thousands of people leaving the country. But Canada is facing many of the same issues, according to Colgate.

“Every country is struggling with a productivity issue. I think Greece and Canada are right at the top in terms of two countries faced with that issue the most. How you respond to that is a crucial issue. Greece has decided this is how they’re going to do it,” he said.

How does it work?

The new legislation now in effect gives workers the option of tackling on a sixth day to their work week, or working an additional two hours per day. It only applies to employees who work at private businesses that operate 24 hours per day.

Greeks who opt in will be paid 40 per cent more than their usual wage for the extra hours worked.

Colgate says the biggest potential problem is worker exploitation, if the optional extra hours become more of an expectation.

“If the worker doesn’t want to work the 48 hours, the employer then says ‘you must or otherwise I won’t hire you, I’ll hire someone who is willing.'”

Could it come to Canada?

The short answer from Colgate – not anytime soon.

“But we are going to have to come up with creative solutions, and this is Greece’s creative solution. Even though some people are pushing back, if they don’t do this, they are going to become less and less competitive as a nation and that’s exactly the issue we’re faced with in Canada right now too.”

Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem recently echoed Colgate’s concern.

“Our Achilles heel is productivity. We have been very good at growing our economy by adding workers. We have been much less successful at increasing output per worker,” Macklem said last month.

“Ourmessage is if you want more non-inflationary growth, we’re going to need a concerted discussion between businesses, governments, and academics, civil society, on how are we going to get productivity growth up in Canada.”



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