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New Zealand mulls 4-day workweek post-coronavirus. Could that work in Canada?


As countries around the world begin to reopen amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, some are considering creative ways to help jump-start their economies — including shortening the workweek.

During a Facebook Live on Tuesday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern floated the idea of shifting to a four-day workweek saying it “certainly would help tourism all around the country.”

“I hear lots of people suggesting we should have a four-day workweek,” she said. “Ultimately that really sits between employers and employees, but as I’ve said, there’s just so much we’ve learned about COVID-19 and that flexibility of people working from home, the productivity that can be driven out of that.”

The idea of shortening the workweek has been thrown around for some time in Canada, but has never been implemented.

Here’s a look at what experts think about Canada switching to a four-day workweek.

Moshe Lander, an economist at Concordia University, said thinking that implementing a four-day workweek will help to stimulate the economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic is “optimistic” but “misguided.”

He said giving people an extra day off of work likely won’t change their spending habits.

“The fact is, at the end of the day, if you earn $50,000 a year and you pay 40 percent of it in taxes, then you have $30,000 to spend,” he said. “Whether you spend $30,000 in disposable income in four days a week, five days a week, seven days a week –the fact is that you have $30,000 to spend.”

He said an extra day off work won’t change the uncertainty many people are feeling, which is affecting how they are choosing to spend.

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If I’m worried that tomorrow morning I could lose my job or next week, I could find myself locked down again, I’m not spending,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how many hours you leave those stores open, even if you give me free home delivery with Amazon, it’s not going to change the fact that I don’t want to spend my money because I just don’t know what tomorrow’s gonna bring.

Lander said our society is built on a five-day workweek and that it would be “very difficult” to change.

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