The four-day week and the gender question

Dr Jana Javornik features in The Conversation Weekly podcast published on July 29 2021 discussing the growing momentum of the four-day working week.

Associate Professor and former Director-General of Higher Education in Slovenia, Jana Javornik discussed her scepticism of the four-day week, in its potential to ignore gender and gender inequalities if implemented on a wide-scale without serious consideration. 

Up until 2021, there had only been small scale company-wide trials across the world in places like Sweden, The Netherlands and New Zealand, finding that reduced hours saw equal or increased productivity, increased work-life balance and reduced stress for employees.

In 2021 however, Iceland trialled the four-day week on a larger scale across multiple industries, which was widely praised by the news media as an ‘overwhelming success’. While some, including Anthony Veal (Adjunct Professor at the University of Technology Sydney Business School) have downplayed the Iceland trial’s significance, Dr Veal citing the Icelandic experiment as like ‘60 little trials’ rather than a national trial as reported- the conversation has nonetheless dominated employment news and media reports across the globe. 

In the podcast, Dr Janorvik discusses trials done in The Netherlands and her own research in Sweden, which both found women did not reap the benefits of reduced working hours. 

Mothers in particular, said Jana, were expected to pick up the slack when the number of hours of public childcare facilities were cut down- and in Sweden, public childcare facilities did remain open later, but with reduced working hours came an expectation for parents to pick up their children from nursery at 4pm. Interviews in Jana’s study found that this expectation and job often fell to mothers, creating further gender inequalities in work and care scenarios. 

For Dr Janornik, questions need answering before a blanket reduction of hours works for everyone- particularly around workload reduction to match working hours, childcare expectations and considerations of gender equality. 

Listen to the podcast on the Conversation UK.