Like many other changes that have taken place in Portugal over the years, the idea of the four day week began due to influences from other countries. Increasing numbers of countries are adopting the 4-day week system, which has brought this topic on to the agenda in Portugal.
Before the victory of the socialist party in the last elections, Prime Minister, António Costa pledged that if his party won, he would move forward with the discussion on the four-day workweek. In this regard, both the Telegraph and The National News wrote that after the socialist won, Portugal is expected to launch trails for a 4-day workweek. However, the debate is still to come.
Workers union and employers associations
These almost opposing forces do not have a very different opinion on this topic, as they both believe that a 4-day week proposal is not a priority. However, they have different arguments to support their claims.
Isabel Camarinha, leader of the General Workers' Union (UGT) considered that the PS's idea is empty, as it does not say how this reduction in working days would be achieved. In addition, she argues that the debate should be focused on reducing the working hours to 35 hours a week for everyone (private and public sector), as “it makes no sense to reduce working days and increase working hours on other days.”
According to her, 35 hours a week will be better for improving work-life balance. Currently, in Portugal, the maximum working hours is 40 hours per week for private employees and 35 hours per week for public servants.
Higher labour costs
On the other hand, the head of the Confederation of Commerce and Services of Portugal (CCP), João Vieira Lopes, said that “in Portugal, given the Portuguese business structure, productivity levels are low to absorb a change like this in the next few years”.
In addition, he warned that if this measure goes ahead, “companies will have to hire workers to maintain the same level of production, which represents higher labour costs and even more struggles for companies, especially in a context of labour shortages", he told ECO.
On the side of the another Portuguese employers' confederation (CIP), the president, António Saraiva, said to CNN that “it would certainly be important for families to have more time together and quality of life is a factor that influences productivity.”
However, “entrepreneurs obviously have to think of other factors that affect companies, not being able to focus only on well-being or on wealth”. Although, “the CIP is interested in starting any debates that help the country to be more competitive and more sustainable, but this is not the moment for this”, he highlighted.