Mar 23, 2023, 12:46pm EDT

Chile cuts its work week down to US levels

Congreso Nacional de Chile/Wikimedia Commons

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The News

Chile’s congress approved a measure shortening the work week to 40 hours, from 45, bringing it to parity with the United States. The new measure will be implemented gradually and is expected to be fully enacted by 2028. Despite the country’s political gridlock on most other issues, the measure was approved unanimously by Chile’s Senate.

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Know More

Long hours are common in Latin America. Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Chile hold the top spots for most hours worked within the OECD, a club of mostly wealthy nations.

Productivity per hour worked remains low throughout the region, though. A worker in Argentina, the most productive country in Latin America, will produce almost $30 per hour worked, far above Peru’s $11 and Brazil’s $19.

However, even Argentina’s productivity is modest compared to that of wealthier countries. A worker in Ireland will produce $125 per hour. A Norwegian one, on average the second-most productive in the world, will produce $100.

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The View From South Korea

South Korea this year backtracked on a proposal to extend the maximum work week to 69 hours after young people said the move would diminish their wellbeing and destroy their work-life balance.

President Yoon Suk-yeol, a conservative who is seen as pro-business, had previously ordered a review of the proposal in response to the protests.

The current cap of 52 hours per week already ranks among the world’s highest.

South Korea’s shrinking population — the country has a fertility rate of just 0.78 — has been blamed at least in part on the country’s work culture.

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The Four-Day Workweek

A recent trial in the U.K. of a four-day workweek was a “resounding success,” according to a study led by a group of Boston College researchers.

More than 60 British companies — from fish and chips shops to financial firms — employing around 2,900 workers overall took part in the trial, the world’s largest of its kind.

The researchers found that 92% of the companies continued with the reduced workweek after the completion of the trial, while almost a third confirmed the policy as a permanent change.

The findings also show that employee wellbeing and work-life balance improved significantly while revenue for participating companies grew slightly.

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Step Back

When the U.S. government first began tracking working hours in 1890, the average worker in the country clocked-in more than 100 hours per week.

The eight hour per day, five days per week work schedule is a relatively recent invention, having only been popularized in the 1920s by Ford Motor Company.

However it wasn’t until 1938, in the aftermath of the Great Depression, that President Franklin D. Roosevelt codified the 44-hour work week into U.S. law.

It would take another 20 years for the average number of hours worked per year by American workers to fall below the 2,000 threshold.