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The five-day working week

The five-day working week

In the Western world, a five-day working week has been the norm for less than a century.

  • The Reformation carved out Sunday as a holy day in Europe.
  • 19th-century bosses started granting a half-day holiday on Saturdays.
  • Industrialists such as Henry Ford pioneered the 40-hour working week in the early 20th century.
  • In France, the Matignon Agreements of 1936 put the 40-hour week into law.
  • In 1940, America mandated two full days of freedom.
  • China's Communist Party only allowed workers to shift to five working days in 1995.
  • In 2000, the French government reduced the full-time worker's week to 35 hours.

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Shorter working weeks have been tried in New Zealand and Sweden, where they resulted in happier, healthier and more motivated employees. Those who work shorter weeks reported that they were more productive.

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