Greens leader Richard Di Natale has flagged the idea of a four-day working week as part of a national conversation his party wants to start on the future of work.
Speaking to Lateline, Senator Di Natale said it was time to question how Australians value work versus spending time with family and other leisure activities.
“It’s time we recognised there are big questions we’re not asking ourselves. What sort of society do we want to be?” he said.
“What does the future of work in this country look like? How do we deal with the fact that wages have remained stagnant but productivity has gone through the roof?”
Senator Di Natale will outline his party’s plans on the future of work in an address to the National Press Club today.
“There are a whole range of models of how this could be brought forward. We’re not suggesting any specific model,” he said.
“We know in Sweden, for example, a six-hour work day was implemented in the aged-care sector to increase productivity, because people who are happier and healthier at work are more productive.”
Workers should be able to ask for flexible hours: Di Natale
The Greens have pushed for the introduction of a universal basic income, and Senator Di Natale said the party had a work-life balance bill before Parliament.
“If you are an individual employee, it should be alright to request flexible work hours and it should be up to the employer to prove why you can’t have them,” he said.
“We have to start making progress in this area, because we have so many people in this country who are working more hours than they should.
“At the same time, we have so many people who are underemployed or indeed unemployed.”
According to recent studies, almost one-quarter of Australians want to work less.
In America, a four-day week for public servants has been trialled in Utah, but there was a backlash because it meant government services were closed on Fridays.
France has had a 35-hour week since the turn of the century, but that is under review.
Economist Saul Eslake told Lateline he was not sold on the model.
“The French are good at many things, but economic management is not one of them,” he said.
“Their economy has grown at barely more than 1 per cent per annum over the past seven years. That’s less than Japan, for example,” he said.
“There isn’t anything I can think of that the French have done in the economic sphere that I would want to see emulated in Australia.”
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
© 2017 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved. Read the ABC Disclaimer here.