Is it time for a four-day week?

Caroline Lucas

The four-day week is the kind of suggestion that most of us can get behind. A study by found that the ideal job in the UK pays £61,000, allows us to come into the office in jeans, and only requires a four-day week.

We might assume that this is a daft pipe dream, but the four-day week has been attracting increasing attention in recent months. Proponents say it could increase productivity, improve our health, and boost our satisfaction with life, so can we expect it to happen?

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The Green Party is firmly behind it, and proposes moving from a limit of 48 hours a week to 35 hours. Leader Caroline Lucas stresses that people don't work as productively when they are tired, so by reducing the working week, we can ensure people are more productive when they are actually at their desk.

Productivity is a major issue. According to Expert Market, the UK has fallen down the rankings for productivity, and is now in 17th place worldwide - well behind many of its European neighbours - including France, Germany and Ireland. The report highlighted that countries with shorter-than-average working weeks tended to be more productive.

Lucas also highlights the benefits to individuals, who are less like to suffer from stress, ill health and mental health problems if they are less overworked.

Families would get a boost from the move too. The need for less childcare could boost gender equality. And if parents were able to stagger their working days, then it could dramatically reduce their childcare bills, and make work pay for all parents.

The New Economics Foundation think tank has also explored the idea of a shorter working week - although it looked at just 21 hours. It suggested that it would reduce the impact we have on the environment, and by spreading the work around, it would mean also lower unemployment.

Could it happen?

It's not impossible to imagine. After-all, during the Industrial Revolution, the six-day week was the norm. The extra half day off on Saturday came about towards the end of the 19th century, and the five-day working week became the norm in the 1920s and 30s.

In some industries a four-day week is the norm now: according to Health Education England, the average GP only works for four days a week. Southern Rail drivers are on a core contract of four days a week - although most of them opt to work a fifth, and schools across the country are considering a move to four days in an effort to cut costs.

However, there are some issues that make things less than straightforward. The impact on individuals would depend on how the new working week was paid. If we were paid the same for fewer hours, then there would be no financial cost to workers, but employers would suddenly get a whole lot less for their money - which could be terrible for business.

If employers paid us just for the four days, meanwhile, it would cause huge budget problems for us all. Over-stretched workers on any income would struggle with a dramatic drop in take-home pay.

Of course, this debate ignores the fact that a move to a four-day week may not be something we have any choice over. Eventually, as robots take over more and more of the work, there will be less employment left to go around for the humans. Recently the founder of Chinese retail giant Alibaba Jack Ma predicted the four-hour day and four-day week within the next 30 years.

If he's right, we can either plan for this, and find a functioning model for the four-day week, or cling onto existing patterns and watch millions put out of work altogether.

But what do you think? Does the idea of a four-day week appeal to you? Let us know in the comments.

The best jobs in the world
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The best jobs in the world

What qualifications do you need? If you're a fan of Disney, between 5'4" and 5'"7, a size 10 and between 18 and 27 you might be in with a chance of becoming a Disney Princess! The role pays £11 an hour and you need to be an excellent public speaker and good with children. 

Did you know? Tinkerbell and other fairies have a specific height requirement of between 4'11" and 5'2"

What qualifications do you need? Are you dexterous with great attention to detail and the ability to follow instructions? Then you could become a senior Lego sculptor in Denmark while being paid £8.20 an hour! 

Did you know? Legoland Windsor is made up of 55 million bricks.

This has to be the perfect role for adrenaline junkies and rollercoaster lovers around the world. What qualifications do you need? All you need is a strong stomach, a passion for travel and be happy with doing your dream job for free. 

Did you know? Kingda Ka in Six Flags Great Adventure, USA, has the record for world's longest rollercoaster drop.

What qualifications do you need? Well, you'll need to be able to swim, obviously. If you're lucky, you could be paid £20,000 a year to splash around on the slides.  

Did you know? Action Park in New Jersey holds the world record for having the longest water slide at 2000ft long.

What qualifications do you need? If you're resourceful, can swim and snorkel and love making new friends, then island keeper may be the career for you and you could make as much as £78,000 doing it!

Did you know? The original Island Keeper was Brendon Grimshaw who purchased Moyenne Island in 1964 for $20,000, it's now worth millions.

What qualifications do you need? You'll need to be physically fit, have a SCUBA certification and a bachelor's degree in an animal-related field to become an animal trainer but you could earn £20,850 doing it. 

Did you know? Dolphins can stay alert for more than 15 days by sleeping with one half of their brain at a time. 

What qualifications are needed? A sweet tooth is a distinct advantage for this this £41,000 per annum ice cream tasting job  - but isn't as easy as it may sounds. As well as healthy taste buds you'll need a Bachelor of Science degree in dairy science or food science too.

Did you know? John Harrison has been a professional ice cream taster for 30 years and has tried nearly 200 million gallons of ice cream.

What qualifications are needed? You'll need dive theory knowledge, first aid skills and Padi certifications before you'll be allowed to take to the seas and earn £27,500 as a senior scuba instructor, but it's worth all that training for a life in the Caribbean.

Did you know? Once you get below 10 metres depth while scuba diving you can't see red or yellow. If you cut yourself your blood will look blue.

What qualifications do you need? To become a £36,500 per annum Great Barrier Reef caretaker you'll need a love for wildlife, adventure, a BSc in Marine Biology and resourcefulness.

Did you know? The venom of the Australian box jellyfish is considered to be among the most deadly in the world. 

What qualifications do you need? Very good fitness levels. If you've always wanted to go 'Down Under' and have a passion for nature and the outdoors as well as a sense of adventure and resourcefulness then a £52,000 per annum career in the Outback may be just right for you. 

Did you know? The Australian outback is more than 2.5 million square miles in area and is home to several different climate zones. 

Calling all big kids out there! If being imaginative, thinking like a child and dreaming outside the box sounds just like you then you should volunteer as a toy tester!

Did you know? Top 'mum bloggers' can earn up to as much as $250 for a review.

Being a chocolate taster may sound like a dream job but it could become reality if you have a serious sweet tooth, love of chocolate, cultured palate! No smokers allowed for this £35,000 job because it ruins your tastebuds. 

Did you know? Humans have around 7,500 taste buds in their mouths.

Unbelievably dog surfing coach is actually a real job and you could earn as much as £51 an hour doing it if you're great with animals, SGB/ISA approved and love the outdoors. 

Did you know?  Hungtington Beach in California isn't just a hotspot for human surfers. For the last five years it's played host to the Annual Surf City Surf Dog contest!

What qualifications do you need? Being physically fit with a strong knowledge of coconut trees and risk management could land you a £17,061 per annum job these days!

Did you know? 150 people die every year from falling coconuts.

If you're wondering what job you can use your BA in structural, electrical and mechanical engineering for and earn £60,000 we might have the answer - become a rollercoaster engineer! 

Did you know? One of the most famous rollercoaster engineers had intense motion sickness and couldn't go on more than 80 of the rides he had designed. 


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