Should Canada adopt a six-hour workday?


Point: Canada should follow the likes of Sweden and adopt a six-hour workday.

Once again, the Swedes are changing the world for the better. The improvement of work/life balance is becoming increasingly important in all countries of the world, and Sweden has shown its willingness to join the fight. Their weapon of choice? A six-hour workday.

The theory behind reduced work hours is that while the time spent working decreases, the focus and productivity of each employee increases. Sweden has seen that this leads to both little change in the amount of work completed, and significant increases in the happiness of employees due to the extra two hours of personal time.

Should Canada follow and experiment with adopting a shorter workday? And should Canada try to adopt a concept that the superpower of the world — America — has had no hand in promoting?

Absolutely. If Canada values work/life balance and its continuing improvement, a six-hour workday introduced by a less powerful country could be the answer. Simply because the most dominant country in the Western world isn’t initiating this six-hour change, what’s to say that Canada is unable to integrate it with success, and reap the benefits? Canada has been following in the footsteps of America for a while, but it’s time for us to ask if we should find a new role model.

Swedish businesses implementing the change have seen decreased staff turnover and increased employee satisfaction. In a government-run retirement home being used as an experiment for the shorter workday, an improvement in patient care due to less exhaustion in staff has been observed. These are all things that every country in the world, including Canada, would like to see happen within their own borders.

By contrast, America is notorious for its lack of balance between career and personal life, and the country as a whole seems to be applying little of its resources into fixing this unevenness. The amount of coverage on the work-dominated culture of America, and the almost non-existent large-scale action that is being taken to combat it, points to a country that at best does not treat this essential balance as a priority. At worst, it displays the apathy of America towards a dangerous problem inherent in its own population.   

Apathy towards something as essential as a balanced life should not be taken lightly. With the rising push for mental health awareness — an issue that as students we are all too aware of — it would be in our best interest to look at the six-hour workday as a solution to an existent problem. — Brenna Schuldhaus

Counterpoint: The great US of A doesn’t do it, and neither should we!

With Sweden’s introduction of a six hour workday many left-minded pundits have been quick to diagnose every country’s work/life balance problems. That old saying “if you work less you’ll be happier” is addressing the right problem in the wrong way. Sure, more than ever people are unhappy with their lives, but the solution isn’t in working less.

Canada has looked to the United States for guidance for ages now and America has proven that by having a system in which workers have a chance to rise with the company and pursue wealth, you can truly create opportunities.

America is able to keep its place as king of the free world because there is a clear hierarchy in labour and public happiness. Inequality is synonymous with the existence of excellence. Larger profit margins means raises for the upper middle class will eventually trickle down to the poor. The goal of such a system has never been widespread happiness, its goal is to make sure that every single old white hard-working man can retire at 65 with a fat savings account, a summer home, and a will so large all the kids will fight over it. And guess what, the strongest will win. It’s that simple.

As Canadians, we have a decision to make when it comes to our happiness and economic goals. Will we sacrifice uncontrollable amounts of wealth or will we rise to the occasion and continue following in the steps of America? Let me tell you, a six-hour workday will erode the American values that make this country this country.

America has been able to figure it all out better than any other nation. Great nations aren’t made outta no six-hour workdays. In 2015, the only thing Canada should model after Sweden is our furniture. — Oumar Salifou

Oumar Salifou

Oumar Salifou is a political science student, The Gateway's 2018-19 Editor-in-Chief, and radio journalist.

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