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Four-day week could alleviate cost of living crisis, thinktank claims | UK cost of living crisis

A four-day week with no loss of pay would save parents thousands of pounds a year in childcare and commuting costs, according to a thinktank that suggests the policy could help to alleviate the cost of living crisis.

Someone with a child under two would save £1,440 in childcare and £340 from commuting on average across a year if they did not have to travel to work one day a week, the leftwing thinktank Autonomy calculated.

Campaigners and economists in favour of a four-day week have tended to focus on the benefits to workers in the form of increased leisure time and potential improvements in productivity that enable companies to carry out the same amount of work but in less time.

Autonomy said the policy would also help workers struggling with the increased cost of living, with the UK in the middle of a period of high inflation, particularly of energy bills.

The commuting cost calculation is based on an average annual bill of about £1,700, drawn from a 2019 survey of 2,000 full-time, part-time and self-employed people from across the UK. The average annual childcare cost estimate was £7,200 for a family with one child, according to data for 2021 from the Trades Union Congress – although in many parts of the country working parents spend significantly more.

The analysis comes after a groundbreaking UK pilot of a four-day week passed its halfway point; 73 companies employing about 3,300 workers have signed up to the six-month trial, which began in June and will end in November.

The trial is being run by the 4 Day Week campaign, which is directly supported by Autonomy. The trial is thought to be the biggest scheme of its kind in the world.

Since the start of the trial, the first local authority in the UK has committed to testing out a four-day week. Desk-based staff at South Cambridgeshire district council will begin the new pattern in January, with possible further trials involving refuse collectors after that.

Joe Ryle, the 4 Day Week campaign’s director, said the anecdotal response so far had been overwhelmingly positive, and the change could help to ameliorate the cost of living crisis.

“There have definitely been difficulties for some companies,” he said. “But it looks like the vast majority will be sticking with it permanently.”

Any evaluation of potential financial benefits to a four-day week would also have to be weighed against spending on leisure activities on the extra day off, as well as costs such as home heating bills if workers and children remain at home. Academics hope to analyse the trial to understand the positive and negative effects of working a day less.

Will Stronge, director of research at Autonomy, said: “The benefits of a four-day week for the wellbeing of workers and boosting productivity are well known, but the impact it could have on the cost of living has so far been overlooked.

“A four-day week with no loss of pay could play a crucial role in supporting workers to make ends meet over the next few years.”

SOURCE: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/sep/19/four-day-week-could-alleviate-cost-of-living-crisis-thinktank-claims

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