What would happen if the entire world switched to the 4-day work week?

Specifically would someone's quality of life drop significantly in a developed or a non-developed country?

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    $\begingroup$ This seems rather broad. But Worldbuilding seem to relish this sort of question. $\endgroup$
    – 410 gone
    Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 10:35
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    $\begingroup$ Are we talking about a transition in norms? A move to a lower hour threshold for overtime hours? More hours worked per day but only 4 days per week? Did you have in mind that schools would also be 4 days a week? Would the extra day be more like a Saturday (stores open) or Sunday (many stores closed?_? $\endgroup$
    – BKay
    Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 18:40
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    $\begingroup$ The answer depends entirely on why the world switches to a 4-day week. Is this due to a change in tastes? A change in technology? A regulation? Without some story behind it, this is a nonsense question, like asking "What if a price changes?". I hope this is quickly closed. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 19:02
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    $\begingroup$ @BKay 8-hour work day, 4-day work week. Uneven work week allowed by state, so that stores will rotate staff (boosts employment levels by the way) to keep stores open 7/7. BTW take your arguments and change 4 to 5: "But schools would only be open 5 days, no way we can switch from a 6 day work week!". $\endgroup$
    – Den
    Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 22:20
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    $\begingroup$ @StevenLandsburg it's a thought exercise. Let's say public's pressure resulted in serious consideration of the guaranteed minimal income in some near future, and the 4 day work week was suggested as an alternative to increase the number of people at work while keeping same productivity levels. $\endgroup$
    – Den
    Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 22:25

1 Answer 1


Based on the OP's comment directed at @StevenLandsburg, it appears that what we are discussing here is "same $L$abor amount, more $H$eads". So if currently we have $H = L/40$ we will roughly have $H' = (1/0.8)\cdot(L/40) \Rightarrow H' = 1.25H$.

Assuming that there are $25$% more Heads to go to work, this is a redistribution of the same labor income from current earners to non-earners, possibly partly offset by the reduction of unemployment benefits and other transfers that are somehow related to non-earners, which could materialize as lower taxes.

Another interesting aspect here would be the effect on savings: if savings are non-linearly related to income, and then, reasonably expected to be a convex function of it (the higher the income, the higher proportion of it is saved), then such a redistribution would lower savings in favor of consumption (but only partially, since part of this +$25$% would come from households that had already some earners, thus tending to re-instate family income). In any case, lower savings would mean lower available funds for loans and investments. What would that do to capital accumulation, capital level and hence profit maximizing demand for labor?

Also, part of the non-earners that they will now go to paid work, may have been engaged in "non-market", "home production". What will happen with this aspect?

In other words, as comments suggested this needs a fully specified model, even if it is only a highly abstract one, and depending on the assumptions of the model, even within the "usual" variety of assumptions, conclusions will most probably differ.

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    $\begingroup$ You give great answers $\endgroup$
    – 123
    Commented Jan 14, 2015 at 16:01
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    $\begingroup$ @mathtastic Thank you, such kind words are much appreciated. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 14, 2015 at 17:26

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