China wants a 4.5-day work week—to boost its economy

Lazy days.
Lazy days.
Image: REUTERS/Sean Yong
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Chongqing, a municipality of around 30 million people in China’s southwest, has taken the first step in implementing an official two-and-a-half-day weekend scheme. The Hebei and Jiangxi provinces (with a combined population of almost 115 million) are also exploring the idea.

The notion of extending China’s weekends was promoted by the national State Council in August (link in Chinese), as part of a plan to increase domestic consumption and leisure spending. Give people more time off, the thinking goes, and they’ll inject more money into the economy.

In particular, the arrangements are expected to provide local economies the chance to boost domestic tourism revenue over the summer months. The first reduced work weeks (or, shorter weekends) are likely to start next summer. Domestic tourism may not sound like the biggest of industries, but it created nearly half a trillion dollars in revenue last year, far outstripping the amount splashed out by China’s big-spending outbound tourists:

In theory, the new initiative will come at no cost to the economy. The directive states that taking Friday afternoon off won’t translate into Chinese workers doing any less work, and that all employees on 40-hour contracts should still complete the normal set of hours.

Implementation of the guidelines will also be down to each company’s “individual circumstances.” So while the government is encouraging the move across state-owned behemoths, private enterprises, and public-sector offices alike, each organization will be allowed to manage the scheme as it sees fit.

China would not be alone in implementing a shorter work week. Tech companies are leading a new charge to introduce four-day weeks to increase job satisfaction and raise staff morale. Some also attribute working fewer days to higher revenue. Should that be the case in China, the national government may have stumbled upon a double-win for its ailing economy.