In the beginning of February, a bill was put forward in Alþingi, the Icelandic Parliament, aiming to reduce the legal working week in Iceland from 40 hours to 35 hours; a move that would potentially move the country closer to other Scandinavian countries in terms of working culture. In late March, Alda sent in detailed commentary on the bill, endorsing it.

The bill is being put forward for the third time without alteration. The bill is sponsored by the Icelandic Pirate Party.

The main arguments for the bill are these:

  1. In Iceland people work longer hours than in many European countries: working hours per person worked in Iceland are around 1880 per year, while in Germany they are around 1360 per year.
  2. The OECD has ranked Iceland the 34th out of 38 in terms of time devoted to leisure and personal care with only Turkey, Mexico, Latvia and Israel being lower, while the other Scandinavian countries rank among the best-performing countries
  3. Productivity in Iceland is lower than in other Scandinavian countries. The general relationship between productivity and working hours is negative implying that fewer working hours results in higher productivity. Less work could imply that people are better able to rest fully and thus increasing productivity. Moreover, with working hours being cut pressure is set on companies to re-organize their pattern of work and internal processes and therefore boosting productivity.

The second time the bill was proposed, commentary from various institutions and associations was recieved by Alþingi, most of which was positive. Positive commentary came from the following associations and institutions: Save the Children, Office of the Ombudsman for Children, Organisation of Disabled in Iceland, Icelandic Human Rights Centre, Icelandic Women’s Rights Association, The Federation of State and Municipal Employees (BSRB), The Centre for Gender Equality, Association for Parents of Kindergarten Children in Reykjavik, Association for Psoriasis and Eczema Patients. In their commentaries they stressed that Icelandic society would be more family-friendly, children’s wellbeing would improve, gender equality would improve, and the rate of disability would likely lessen.

Alda sent detailed commentary to Alþingi, amounting to eleven pages, endorsing the bill. Our main arguments were the same as above, but adding the following:

  1. When average working hours per working person is considered along with the proportion of people in work in Iceland, the ‘amount’ of work in Icelandic society is ranked the highest within OECD. In no other OECD country is as much work performed.
  2. More automation and industrialisation should imply working less.
  3. Working less would mean it is easier for the public to engage in politics.
  4. There is longing for working less.
  5. Trial projects run in Iceland, where working hours have been cut, have been successful with productivity rising and people actually working less.

In the coming months, Alda will be adding more material on this site on its position on working hours.

The bill is available here, the commentary here, and our general position on working hour reduction is available here (all in Icelandic).