New Zealand considers 4-day workweek to re-vivify economy

As the pandemic drags on, many are looking for silver linings.

The dominant theory is that we will make profound changes to the poisonous ways in which we lived before coronavirus.

Whether we experience an awakening or have misplaced our optimism remains to be seen. But New Zealand is already hinting at implementing lessons learned.

Last week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke of the benefits of a 4-day workweek to kickstart the post-COVID economy. While she didn’t suggest a federal policy, she suggested employers consider the initiative if it makes sense for their business. She also considered adding more public holidays to the calendar.

“I hear lots of people suggesting we should have a four-day workweek. Ultimately that really sits between employers and employees. But as I’ve said there’s just so much we’ve learnt about Covid and that flexibility of people working from home, the productivity that can be driven out of that,” Ardern said.

Boost the economy by working less? Indeed. Classic Keynesian economics: you can spend your way out of a recession caused by a demand deficiency, which is exactly what COVID-19 has created.

The hope is that more time off will encourage New Zealanders to travel domestically, which in turn boosts the country’s hard-hit tourism industry. The service sector accounts for two-thirds of the country’s GDP.

New Zealand, like Canada, has the luxury of being one hell of a nice place to explore. Which might be why, aside from the fact that working less is always great, Canadians are enthused by Ardern’s comments.

Tourism is Canada’s fifth-largest sector, bringing in $102 billion a year. According to recent data, domestic traveller spending is expected to drop anywhere from 33 to 58 per cent.

With international travel likely stricken throughout summer, long weekends present a great opportunity to indulge in local sightseeing.

On that note, some of Canada’s national parks and historic sites are set to re-open starting next week.