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Campaign for shorter working week reaches parliament

Campaign for shorter working week reaches parliament

by John MONAGHAN 2 min. 24.06.2022
Petition calling for 35-hour week could be debated by lawmakers after passing 4,500 threshold required for discussion within days
There have been calls for a cut in Luxembourg's working hours, which are above the EU average
There have been calls for a cut in Luxembourg's working hours, which are above the EU average
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Lawmakers could soon debate the introduction of a shorter working week in Luxembourg, after a public petition calling for a 35-hour week secured enough support to be raised in parliament.

More than 4,500 people signed the petition within its first week, passing the threshold required for triggering a debate in the Chamber of Deputies.

"A cut in working hours would lead to an increase in employee productivity and overall wellbeing," the petition argues, adding it is calling for a reduction in the working week from the current 40 hour model to 35 hours.

The government has already said it will examine whether to allow people to work fewer hours for the same pay, Labour Minister Georges Engel told parliament in April.

France introduced a 35-hour working week as early as 2000, and a similar plan could make Luxembourg a more attractive place to work, Engel said, while employers would benefit because of healthier and happier staff. Workers in Luxembourg work slightly longer hours than on average across the EU, according to OECD data.

The debate over a reduced working week is currently raging in many countries, amid attempts to lure back employees who left the global workforce en masse during the Covid-19 crisis citing reasons including stagnating wages, and the flexibility bosses offered during the pandemic, such as working from home. 

However, several business figures have voiced their opposition to the proposal, including Carlo Thelen, who heads the Chamber of Commerce, one of the country's main business lobbies. Luxembourg is having enough difficulties attracting staff due to high living costs and traffic problems without adding additional red tape, Thelen said.

There is no guarantee the issue will advance politically. Elected officials do not always take popular petitions under their radar even when the minimum threshold of signatures has been met.

In 2016, a petition calling for Luxembourgish to become the first official language in the country's Constitution received a record breaking 14,500 signatures, meeting the minimum 4,500 threshold within days. However, the topic did not progress in parliament.

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