With an impending opportunity to restructure the New Zealand economy for post-corona reopening, NZ Prime Minister Ardern is exploring a policy suite of uncommon ambition. Hard-hit tourism is New Zealand’s largest export industry, employing 15% of New Zealanders and contributing to almost 6% of GDP.
It was in the context of rescuing this industry that on Wednesday Ardern suggested – informally, in a Facebook Live video from the tourist town of Rotorua – that, should the country move to a four-day working week, more leisure time could allow the domestic tourist market to expand to meet the present shortfall.
A universal four-day week in itself is no panacea for relationships, workplace frustration, for rescuing an economy or for meeting every household’s care commitments, But it’s Ardern’s suggestion that it be considered within a mix of work changes by employers that’s important here.
With many western leaders yearning for “snap back” to the way things were before the virus it’s New Zealand’s, conspicuously, who repeatedly shows the courage to snap forward. Little wonder she has become so popular.
Analysis and Comments
This news story also generated a lot of interest in New Zealand with local coverage here & here. Its clear when you dig deeper, that Arden’s proposal is “just floating the idea” & its suggested as part of a wider range of measures to reset the economy. Never the less, there are some important potential economic as well as social positives.
The hope would be that a four day week would encourage people to travel more, giving a boost to the local tourism industry. NZ may seem like it has unique issues, after all its an economy that is materially based around tourism & its location makes it particularly vulnerable to a drop off in long haul air travel.
But, surprisingly, NZ is less reliant on tourism than many European countries.
According to the European Travel Commission, 51% of global tourism comes to Europe. Topping the impact list (by share of GDP) are economically countries such as Italy (13.2%) & Spain (14.6%. Europe wide its c. 10.1% of GDP, and although travel between countries is obviously easier than getting to NZ, measures to boost tourism will be important.
As well as the economic argument, there is also some “evidence” that a four day week, in some industries, actually increases productivity Perpetual Guardian makes four day week permanent (Stuff NZ)
Clearly, a four day week is not for everyone, but with many industries having to work harder to attract the millennial worker, its something we may see more of.
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