Portugal expected to trial four-day working week after Socialist election win

Prime Minister António Costa had pledged to consider a shorter working week

Antonio Costa celebrates with his wife Fernanda Tadeu after the Socialists won the general election in Lisbon on January 31, 2022.  Reuters
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Portugal is expected to begin trials of a four-day working week after a surprise landslide victory for the governing Socialist Party at the weekend.

It follows a model launched by the UAE's public sector late last year to move to a four-and-a-half day working week.

In Sunday's election, Prime Minister António Costa's Socialists won 41.7 per cent of the vote and a majority of 117 seats in the 230-seat parliament, far ahead of their nearest rival, the centre-right Social Democratic Party, which collected 28 per cent of the vote and 71 seats.

The majority will allow Mr Costa to scrap his government’s previous alliances with the Portuguese Communist Party and Left Bloc and allow him to move forward with his campaign pledges, which included a shorter working week.

Mr Costa had said he would consider a shorter working week to “balance” hours for “various sectors” of the economy, and promised to create “a real task-force for national recovery.”

The Socialists want to “start a national conversation” about working four days a week instead of five and to increase the minimum monthly wage, earned by more than 800,000 people, to 900 euros ($1,020) by 2026. It is currently 705 euros ($800).

Susana Salgado, a professor at Lisbon's Political Sciences Institute, warned that despite its majority the Socialist Party will still have to deliver on its promises.

Antonio Costa, Portugal's prime minister and secretary general of the Socialist Party, speaks at an election night rally in Lisbon.  Bloomberg

“Governing stability in the short term may lead to structural instability in the medium term if [the Socialist Party] does not manage to provide the answers that people need,” she said.

The UAE has moved to a Monday-Friday working week and reduced hours for public sector employees to four-and-a-half days.

It has led to many private sector companies following suit, with a survey by management consultancy Mercer revealing one in four companies plan to move to a four-and-a-half-day working week.

Last year Spain announced it would also consider the idea of a four-day week.

A number of British companies said last month they are set to trial a four-day working week as part of a pilot programme to see whether staff can produce the same results while working fewer hours.

The trial in Britain is being organised by 4 Day Week Global in partnership with think tank Autonomy and the 4 Day Week UK Campaign.

The scheme will run alongside similar programmes led by 4 Day Week Global in Ireland, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Updated: February 01, 2022, 12:20 PM