A 30-Hour Working Week: Could It Happen in Germany?

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A group of 100 German academics, trade unionists and politicians is calling for a 30-hour working week with full pay, German daily Tageszeitung reported on Monday, with the petitioners arguing that a shorter working week is the best way to address rising unemployment.

Germany's unemployment rate, which increased to 7.4 percent in January, remains well below the 26 percent reached in Spain. But in an open letter published on Monday and cited by the newspaper, the group said a reduction in working hours could help German workers.

Under the plan, devised by politicians from left wing parties, philosophers and academics, a 30-hour working week would be introduced gradually over the course of several years. It would markedly improve productivity, the group argued, which in turn would help employers pay out full wages.

"We need a project by society as a whole to reduce working hours. This can no longer simply be a collective bargaining policy matter," the paper cited Hein-Josef Bontrup, professor of commercial law at the Westfalische Hochschule University and one of the driving forces behind the letter assaying.

Bontrup said trade union leaders argued that workers did not want a shorter working week because they feared it would lead to lower wages and a higher workload. But he said that view was the result of a lack of fundamental understanding."Even some trade union leaders do not understand things taught in the first semester of an economics degree," the paper cited him as saying.