By: Sara Rančigaj / Nova24tv
The SD party is organising an expert consultation on the topic of shorter working hours, longer rest periods and higher wages, which seems contradictory, as it is difficult to expect higher wages with less work. Economist Matej Lahovnik believes that this is an empty promise to voters in the next elections, as this issue should be addressed at the level of each individual company. “Any additional bureaucratic hurdle will frighten potential foreign investors, who would otherwise prefer to use more flexible forms of work, such as working from home, and valuing work based on the worker’s result,” Lahovnik explained. He is convinced that compulsory part-time work could reduce the competitiveness of the Slovenian economy and wants from the SD party to move from words to deeds and support a law that would reduce personal income tax and increase workers’ wages.
In its programme, the SD party listed shorter work time as one of its goals, as they believe that technological changes will affect the labour market and the growth of unemployment. In their programme, they wrote that we are facing major technological changes, which are predicted by further robotisation and digitalisation, there is even greater pressure on work: with the mass disappearance of jobs and traditional professions. They believe that we should approach this challenge strategically and thoughtfully, as we could face a long-term perspective of high unemployment in the future.
The Social Democrats want to achieve a gradual reduction in working hours in social dialogue by working a total of 32 hours a week in 2030, either by shortening the daily working day or by an additional day off per week. “This is also a response to the new circumstances of work, whether it is the increased need for employee mobility in the service sector or automation and robotisation in agriculture and manufacturing,” they wrote in their programme.
Experts believe that this issue should not be addressed at the state level, but at the level of each individual company. “Any additional bureaucratic hurdle will scare away potential foreign investors who would otherwise prefer to use more flexible forms of work, such as working from home and valuing work based on the worker’s result,” explains economist Dr Matej Lahovnik. The latter is convinced that compulsory part-time work could reduce the competitiveness of the Slovenian economy.
The measures are contradictory
The SD party is aware that this is a demanding change that affects all social and economic sectors, so they believe that it is necessary to achieve it gradually and with the consent of the social partners. The idea of reducing working hours is simple for them: to do more in less time due to improved work methods and technologies, and to save the time saved for family, sports and recreation, hobbies and everything that makes us happy in life. “These are somewhat contradictory measures, as it is impossible to expect from employers to give higher wages for less work. I would like to emphasise once again that a more sensible approach would be to promote flexible forms of work at the level of each individual company,” said Lahovnik.
According to SD, the countries with the highest productivity in Europe are also not the countries where they would work the most, but they work better and smarter. “Certainly, EU countries are trying to introduce a shorter workday measure, but this is being implemented at the company level. In any case, the party or the state should not introduce shorter workday in terms of new bureaucratic obstacles, as this could frighten future investors,” explained Lahovnik.
Abroad and also in Slovenia, companies are introducing shorter office hours
In Gothenburg, Sweden, a two-year probationary period ended four years ago, during which staff reduced their working hours to six hours. As stated in previous findings at the time, the shortening of working hours reduced the number of sick leave, employees felt healthier, and the care of residents in a home for the elderly, where they tested the part-time model, also improved. France was one of the few countries to reduce the working day to 35 hours a week at the state level, and this measure is still the subject of heated debate, as right-wing governments want to return to the 39-hour working day.
However, a six-hour working day has its price, as part-time work requires the employment of new workers. “At the moment, the measure of part-time work does not make sense, as we have record employment and there are not enough staff on the labour market to replace this,” said Lahovnik. He emphasised that the government had used the measure in the coronavirus crisis, when unemployment was high, and they wanted to keep residents in touch with employers. “It is cheaper to keep a worker with a subsidy in the workplace than to look for a new job.”
In Slovenia, the part-time test was tested by the company Skaza. They decided on this move because their employees are responsible, trustworthy and committed to the work they do. They are aware that efficiency is a more important criterion for business success than the number of hours they spend in the workplace. They hypothesised that shorter working hours not only contribute to greater employee satisfaction, but also increase productivity. “The work is more focused and more efficient in a shorter time frame,” they said in one of the interviews. Skaza already had some concrete results of an internal survey of employee satisfaction in test teams, where we introduced a 6-hour workday. On a rating scale of 1-7, pre-implementation occupancy was 5.54, rising to 5.57 after two months; job performance rose from 5.89 to 6.06; conflict between work and family or leisure decreased from 2.26 to 1.93.
Social Democrats also promise higher wages, but do not support a law that would reduce personal income tax and allow higher wages
In the SD party, the programme advocates an increase of the minimum wage, which would translate into a decent wage for a decent life. This pre-election promise will be difficult to fulfil. Although they are aware that many public and economic sectors today face labour shortages and seek answers in higher wages in these sectors, SD MPs did not support a law that would reduce personal income tax and provide workers with a more decent wage. “In Slovenia, we have extremely high payroll taxes, which is why the best young people are fleeing abroad. If the Social Democrats really want to ensure higher wages, they should also support this law,” concluded Lahovnik.