Not feasible for the self-employed and the majority of salaried workers

Sometimes reality crushes good intentions and disarms the most rational arguments for certain elements of politics. This may be the case for the new pilot project launched by the government to promote the Four working days In Spain. A great challenge, not only because of the complex composition of the business fabric with a large weight of the service sector and made up of 98% by small and medium-sized companies, but also because the model is in conflict with the work culture of our country where efficiency in the use of working hours and productivity have been outstanding topics for years.

In fact, from this starting point, the laudable measure promoted by the executive seems to have been made from clay, at least in the short term and with the current conditions of the labor market. Experts point out several blind spots in this project, though the main one lies in an element productivity. That way, if the companies that take advantage of the plan don’t sign up for some minor changes, the plan will fail before it starts rolling and before it can reach a good handful of the more than 20 million affiliates in our country.

This month, small and medium-sized businesses with up to 249 workers will have access to the government-approved pilot project to encourage a four-day reduction in the working day, which provides assistance of up to 200,000 euros per company during the next year. The executive estimates that this first call to promote this reduction in weekly hours, from 40 to 32 hours, could accommodate about 160 businesses affecting nearly 3,000 workers.

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However, as mentioned, the reflection of productivity will be the first touchstone. The experts ABC consulted specifically point out that Reducing working hours The work should automatically translate into an increase in productivity levels, or at least in keeping the same records combined with the existing 40 hour work week. “Historical experience tells us that this usually does not happen,” says Associate Professor of Applied Economics at URJC and Research Associate at Fedea, Miguel Angel Garcia.

This is what the economist says Javier Santacruzwhich shows that the first pilot project was noted with the strong emergence of remote work imposed by the health crisis and that it was reduced to certificate volumes after only three years, precisely because of this disclosure of productivity losses in most companies.

Delayed work efficiency

However, the problem of efficiency in the workplace comes from behind and is getting worse in international comparison. Graduate and Doctor of Economic and Commercial Sciences from the University of Valencia, Joaquin Moduspointed out in a recent analysis of productivity development in Spain that our economy’s growth pattern has been based on factor accumulation for decades, with the productivity contribution being negative.

Indeed, since 2000, productivity decreased by 14.7%which helps explain why Spain’s per capita GDP is 18.5% lower than the eurozone, while productivity per hour worked is also lower (14.1% lower).

Behind these poor results in terms of productivity is the low investment effort in its main determinants: Spain is below the European average in variables such as Technology capital stock With regard to GDP (66.1% lower), human capital (4.2% lower), general capital stock (26.6% lower compared to the population) and the stock of capital produced per employee (29.9% lower), among others, indicates the analysis included In Cuadernos de Información Economica, No. 285 (November-December 2021) from funcas.

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“In this context, the requirements for structural reforms required by the European recovery funds are understandable, as they are a necessary condition for maximizing the impact of investments in terms of potential output growth. Of the planned investments, those aimed at increasing digitization are of great importance, given the impact digital transformation on productivity,” says Professor Modus.

Reality check

In this sense, Miguel Ángel García of the government’s €9.6m grant pilot project states that it is “good to maintain productivity” but loses integers when it comes to reality. In the field of commerce and the download The Fedea researcher points out that the reduction procedure to 32 hours seems complicated, noting that in any case the promoted project will not mean a change in the employment structure in Spain.

In addition, the Fedea researcher points out that, however, he points out that this type of measure must be born from the company itself, through collective bargaining, and as long as the sector of activity allows this process to maintain productivity, reduce working hours, and Without reducing employee salary conditions. Although he admits that experience proves that the model is applicable to only a few sectors, which are related to chain production or recurring jobs.

Economist Javier Santacruz brings up another element at this stage that would hinder implementation outside the sectoral side, focusing on services and not on serial production tasks: the massive chopping up of labor contracts that accelerated after the approval of the labor reform. In the latter two, above all, is creation part time job and intermittent fixed. With this structure in the molds, it’s difficult to address the reduction in weekly work hours,” he warns.

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In addition, the expert reported that there are many activities that could be subject to time restrictions due to the nature of their work, and this would be impossible due to dependence on business relations with other companies. This will be exactly the case for most 3.3 million independent workers He came out in Spain. Although many would reduce working hours in pursuit of increased productivity, it would be impossible due to dependence on business relationships. For example, this would be the case for a small property management company. And other companies that do not necessarily invest in commerce and hospitality. “But there are other cases where suppressing a workday isn’t directly possible, such as in education or health,” Santacruz says.

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