Greece has taken a significant step towards growth by introducing a six-day working week. The latest regulation, which came into force on July 1st as part of the pro-business government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has been described as both “worker-friendly” and “deeply growth-orientated”. This bold move is expected to address the skilled worker shortage and boost productivity, potentially leading to a more robust economy.

Going against the grain

The post-pandemic world that teeters on recession has been embracing flexible working, with either remote or hybrid roles taking centre stage. Many companies worldwide also consider implementing shorter four-day work weeks to boost morale, productivity, and employee well-being.

However, this week, the Greek pro-business Prime Minister announced new legislation addressing unpaid overtime and undeclared work by establishing a six-day work week. The new law is necessary to address the shrinking population and skilled worker shortage, but could it help improve productivity?

Vicky Walker, Group Director of People at Westfield Health, told HR magazine: “A six-day work week might boost short-term productivity due to the increase in the number of hours, but it runs the risk of increasing presenteeism. Employees who are being overworked without adequate measures in place to protect their wellbeing could be more prone to errors, have decreased motivation and lower overall engagement.”

How did we end up here?

Before announcing this legislation, Mitsotakis described the projected demographic shift as a ‘ticking time bomb’. About half a million, mostly young, educated Greeks, are estimated to have emigrated since the near decade-long debt crisis erupted in late 2009.

The reaction

According to Eurostat, Greeks already work the longest hours in Europe, an average of 41 hours per week. However, many surveys have shown that they also get paid much less, with the opposition party often saying, “Bulgarian salaries in a country of British prices,” claiming that this has only increased the brain drain.

Although the legislation only applies to private businesses providing round-the-clock services, staff in select industries and manufacturing facilities can work an additional two hours a day or an extra eight-hour shift, rewarded with a 40% top-up fee added to the daily wage.

Many people on pensions who have also been encouraged to work under the legislation have provided their comments on the situation:

“What the government is essentially saying is ‘go and work longer, we’ll turn a blind eye even if you are a pensioner. It knows that the majority of Greeks, on an average salary of €900, can only survive until the 20th of the month. This latest barbaric measure is not going to solve the fundamental problem of labour shortages and a lot of us feel it is very unfair to unemployed young Greeks who may never have a job” Grigoris Kalomoiris, Head of Union of Retired Teachers (Pesek)

Wondering where to go from here?

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