Spain‘s left-wing government is set to pilot a four-day work week as a response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Under plans backed by the country’s finance ministry, financial aid would be provided to companies that cut the working week to 32 hours with no loss of pay.
The pilot, which has a price tag of around 50 million euros, is relatively limited in scope but could pave the way to the adopt of the policy on a wider basis.
It was proposed by small left-wing party Más País, whose support the socialist-led government needed in congress to pass a deal on EU recovery funds.
Íñigo Errejón, the leader of, Más País, confirmed on Thursday that the country’s finance ministry had accepted the plan.
Challenged that the idea was unrealistic, Mr Errejón replied: “The eight hour working day was unrealistic a century ago.”
Maria Alvarez, a businesswoman and founder of the 4 Day Week Campaign in Spain, said the pilot represented “a sensible idea that should be in every government’s toolbox coming out of this crisis”.
“What this pilot reveals is that the four- day week has never been a moonshot. Quite the opposite,” she said.
The programme is similar one being pursued by the regional government of Valencia,w hich announced last year.
UK based think-tank Autonomy drew up a roadmap for the region on how to shift to a shorter working week.
“Having worked with Spanish public authorities on this issue in the past, it is exciting to see such ambition now turned into action,” said Will Stronge, Autonomy’s director.
“Other governments and political parties, including those here in the UK, should take note.”
Joe Ryle, a campaigner with the 4 Day Week UK Campaign, said: “This could pave the way for Spain to become the first country in the world to move towards a four-day working week.
“We know from history that shorter working hours are the best way of spreading existing work more equally across the economy in times of economic recession and crisis.
“The UK government and the rest of the world should learn from the Spanish example and embrace shorter working hours in response to the Covid pandemic.”
Spain is governed by a coalition of the centre-left PSOE party and the smaller left-wing parties Podemos and United Left, with ad hoc support from other smaller parties, including Más País.
The idea of a four day week is gaining currency in Europe, with the policy backed by left-leaning politicians and trade unionists in a letter released in November.
As the continent looks to the future after the Covid pandemic, it is among a number of radical ideas being piloted in various countries, ranging from a job guarantee in Austria to a universal basic income in Finland.