How many individuals and organisations are advocating the topic of working time reduction in your country and do you form partnerships?
In the Flemish part, the idea of working time reduction is mostly supported by feminist organizations and trade unions. In terms of political parties, only the radical left party PVDA-PTB favours a 30-hour workweek. The socialist party and the green party have intermediate proposals to change the full-time reference for the build-up of social rights to 30-hours. We are in frequent contact with the other organizations campaigning on the topic and are currently preparing a light social media campaign in cooperation with the French speaking partners.
What is your group`s actual proposal for the reduction of working time?
We do not have a fully-fledged proposal (yet) but are mostly campaigning around the idea of working less and providing examples of how it could be organized. However, we focus on the need for collective and non-voluntary solutions.
Who do you encounter as opponents and what are their counterarguments?
Most mainstream economists and employer organizations actively campaign against the idea, tending to argument by:
- taking the proposals to the extreme (not working for the same wage);
- focusing on existing models of (individual) working time reduction (e.g. part time work, they say WTR is unable to redistribute employment);
- discrediting the proponents by stressing the fact that they work hard themselves;
- Portray the proponents as being anti-work and lazy.
What is the public opinion on working time reduction in your country?
I have the impression there is a general willingness to discuss the topic of WTR but that the proposed solutions are observed as being naïve. There is also a focus on choice by which most people want to keep the choice of working more or less, oblivious of the side-effects this has on gender and social inequality. The main reconsideration of people is that virtually everybody feels the strain combining work with private obligations.
What is your next step in the campaign? And what are your short-term, medium-term and long-terms objectives?
The next steps for us are to promote the topic in the run up of the next elections; and to develop a more concrete plan of how a WTR can be applied in practice. The long-term objectives are to get the topic in the agenda of political parties; and to demonstrate to people that the economy (and society) can be shaped differently. What if companies/the economy would not determine the way we live?