Shorter Work Week May Also Help Gender Equality In Iceland - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Shorter Work Week May Also Help Gender Equality In Iceland

Published February 8, 2018

Photos by
Timothée Lambrecq

A lawyer for the government employees union contends that amongst the positive effects of a shortened work week would be greater gender equality. Localised experiments with a shortened work week in Iceland have already shown positive results.

Sonja Ýr Þorbergsdóttir, a lawyer for the Confederation of State and Municipal Employees of Iceland, explained for RÚV that about a third of women in Iceland only work part time, the main reason being that they are traditionally tasked with caring for the family. If the full time work week was shortened, she contends, then men and women could more evenly share family duties.

“We know that this increased responsibility that women shoulder, especially in so-called ‘unpaid labour’, in household and family care, results in lower pay and a decrease in employment possibilities,” she said.

These are not just speculations on her part, either. Sonja points out that studies conducted in France and Switzerland have shown that a decreased full time work week has a positive effect on the participation of women in the work market.

Most recently, the City of Reykjavík conducted a year-long experiment with a shortened work week for some of its employees. Despite the work week in these places being up to five hours shorter, productivity and costs remained the same. At the same time, employees reported greater work satisfaction, fewer sick days, and a greater level of well-being in general.


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