More than half of Canadians are ready for a four-day workweek, according to a recent poll by Angus Reid. 

Support for a 30-hour workweek has risen by six-points from 2018, with 53% of those polled saying it would be a “good idea”. Even though people across all income levels support the idea, those at the lowest levels of income are more likely to support it at 64% of people, compared to 47% of people in the higher income bracket at around $150,000. 

The pandemic, which has resulted in the highest unemployment levels in 70 years in Canada, has renewed conversations around shorter work weeks and a Universal Basic Income (UBI) as ways to address income inequality and reduce economic vulnerability for the working class. 

In June, municipal employees of Guysborough, Nova Scotia launched a four-day workweek as part of a nine-month pilot project. New Zealand’s Prime Minister, also, suggested the idea of a shorter workweek to promote domestic tourism as its international borders remain closed. 

The idea of a shorter-work is not to compress a 40-hour work week into 30 hours, but rather to encourage employers to bring on more workers to share the workload, which can help in reducing unemployment. 

Critics of this idea argue that businesses cannot afford to pay to maintain or increase wages if hours are reduced. However, according to a study on labour productivity in Canada from 1976-2014, wage earnings haven’t kept pace with labour productivity, which has grown by 1.12% each year. Increased income from increased labour productivity has instead gone into the pockets of top most and bottom most earners, instead of the middle working class, resulting in stagnant wages. 

A shorter workweek has also been suggested as one of the ways to combat the climate crisis – for example through a reduction in carbon-intensive commutes. Overall, studies show that a 30-hour workweek can increase productivity as employees feel more rested, with a general improvement in mood and well-being, with more hours to spend with family and pursuing hobbies. 

Just like UBI, this is not a new idea but one that has been around for years. In fact, the last time a 30-hour workweek was considered was during The Great Depression to spread work over more employees, and thereby increasing employment.