From Japan to Belgium: How These Countries Are Leading the 4-Day Workweek Movement

How These Countries Are Leading the 4-Day Workweek Movement

A glimpse into the countries at the forefront of the four-day workweek movement.

The Covid-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we work. As remote work and flexible arrangements become the norm, the idea of a four-day workweek is gaining traction worldwide. This alternative work model promises to improve productivity, increase employee satisfaction and well-being, and promote gender equality in the workplace. It can also have a positive impact on the environment by reducing transportation-related emissions.

As more and more companies recognize these benefits, an increasing number of countries are embracing the four-day workweek. In this article, we’ll explore which countries have embraced this new approach to work.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) becomes the first country to adopt a 4.5-day workweek

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) made headlines in 2022 by transitioning from a traditional five-day workweek to a four-and-a-half-day workweek starting January 1. The transition is a significant step for the UAE as it becomes the first country in the world to implement this change. This move also aligns the UAE more closely with the work schedules of Western countries. Previously, the UAE observed a Friday-Saturday weekend, which is a common practice in many Muslim-majority nations.

According to the UAE Government Media Office, the move to a four-and-a-half-day workweek is part of an effort to improve work-life balance, promote social well-being and increase work performance to enhance the country’s economic competitiveness. The implementation has received positive feedback, with experts at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, in May 2022, highlighting the advantages of flexible work arrangements in retaining talent and increasing productivity.  

Since implementing the shorter workweek, the UAE’s Minister for Government Development and the Future has reported positive outcomes. Nearly 70 percent of workers reported increased productivity, and there was a significant 55 percent reduction in absenteeism. The UAE’s decision to adopt a four-and-a-half-day workweek sets a leading example of how progressive and employee-friendly policies can contribute to a more productive and motivated workforce. 

Japan’s plans to encourage four-day workweeks

In June 2021, Japan’s government announced its annual economic policy guideline, which included plans to encourage employers to adopt four-day workweeks. This marks a significant shift in Japan’s work culture, which has long been characterized by long work hours and a strong emphasis on face time in the office.

The government’s new guideline urges companies to provide their employees with the choice of a four-day workweek, which could be used for childcare, eldercare or personal development. Some major companies, such as Fast Retailing Co. and Mizuho Financial Group Inc., have already adopted a four-day workweek, while Panasonic Holdings Corp., has made it an optional arrangement for its employees.

However, compensation policies for employees who opt for a four-day workweek vary among companies. For example, employees at Mizuho Financial Group who work four days per week may face a reduction in their income. Despite this, Japan’s push for a four-day workweek is a clear sign of changing attitudes towards work-life balance and flexible work arrangements.

Belgium offers a four-day workweek without pay reduction

Belgium has become the latest country to offer a four-day workweek without any reduction in pay. This legislation, effective from November 21, 2022, enables employees to choose between a four-day or five-day workweek.

Under the new law, employees work the same number of hours per week as they would in a five-day workweek, but the hours are compressed into four days instead of five. While the policy primarily targets the private sector, companies have the autonomy to decide whether to provide their employees with the option of a four-day workweek. However, not everyone will have access to this option, as the policy does not cover the public sector.

Other countries conducting pilot programs for shorter workweeks 

The trend towards a shorter workweek is not limited to the countries mentioned above. Several countries are conducting pilot programs to adopt shorter working weeks, including the United States, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia. These schemes aim to boost productivity, enhance work-life balance and happiness and decrease unemployment rates. The non-profit organization 4 Day Week Global is at the forefront of these initiatives.

In Spain, the government has launched a three-year experiment aimed at reducing the workweek from 40 hours to 32 hours without a reduction in pay. The experiment began in September 2021 and will involve 200 companies across the country.

Apart from government initiatives, several UK companies are also embracing the four-day workweek after a successful six-month trial. Launched on June 6, 2022, the pilot program is the largest of its kind to date, with over 3,300 employees and 61 companies across various sectors participating. The experiment found that most employees experienced reduced stress levels and an improved work-life balance, leading many companies to permanently adopt reduced work hours.

The movement towards shorter workweeks is gaining traction in the tech industry as well. Companies such as Microsoft, Shopify and Basecamp have already implemented or experimented with four-day workweeks and more are expected to follow suit. While it remains uncertain whether a fully mandated four-day workweek will become the norm in the future, the ongoing experiments and pilots are undoubtedly moving us closer in that direction.

Also read:

Header image courtesy of Pexels


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email


Meet the World's First AI Interns Aiko and Aiden

Meet the World’s First AI Interns Aiko and Aiden: A Dive in AI and the Future of Work

Artificial intelligence (AI) has revolutionized the way industries operate, enabling machines to carry out tasks that were once the sole domain of human decision-making. With its ability to automate mundane and repetitive work, AI has quickly become an indispensable tool in various industries, including healthcare, finance, manufacturing and transportation.

How Does Rihanna Promote Fenty Beauty

How Does Rihanna Promote Fenty Beauty—and Some Hot Tips for Your Brand

Rihanna’s Superbowl performance left the social media world quivering—for both good and bad reasons. While some thought the pop star did the bare minimum, others resorted to recreating her dance moves, celebrating her pregnancy announcement and lauding her for her genius marketing move.


From Budget to High-End: Our Top Picks for Gaming Computers 2023

Gaming has evolved from a mere hobby into a full-blown lifestyle for countless gamers worldwide. From casual gamers to professional players, everyone understands the importance of a high-performance gaming computer. These computers come with specialized components that are optimized to deliver the ultimate gaming experience.

The Most Anticipated Foldable Phones of 2023 You Won't Want to Miss

The Most Anticipated Foldable Phones of 2023 You Won’t Want to Miss

Innovation in the smartphone industry is the key to staying ahead of the curve, and foldable phones are leading the way. These devices offer innovative designs that provide larger screens in a compact form factor, generating new excitement and anticipation among tech enthusiasts.

How to Get the Most Out of Reddit Marketing

How to Get the Most Out of Reddit Marketing: A Guide for Businesses and Bloggers

In recent years, Reddit has become one of the most popular social media platforms on the internet. With over 430 million users, Reddit provides businesses and bloggers with a unique opportunity to reach a vast and engaged audience. However, many businesses and bloggers struggle to effectively leverage Reddit for marketing purposes.

What Happened and What It Means for Startups and the Crypto Market

3 Successive Bank Closures: What Happened and What It Means for Startups and the Crypto Market

The recent spate of bank failures in the U.S. has sent shockwaves through the financial world, with experts warning of a repeat of the 2008 crisis. In just one week in March, we saw the failure of two banks—Silvergate Bank, which announced plans for liquidation, and Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), which struggled to cut losses on bond investments because of inflationary conditions.