The Economic Impact of the Four-Day Work Week in Germany

The Economic Impact of the Four-Day Work Week in Germany

Germany's labor market has been at the forefront of discussions about optimal work-life balance, leading to debates on the feasibility of a four-day work week. This conversation marks a significant shift from the traditional work models, evolving from the six-day norm of the 1950s to the current consideration of reduced working days.

2024 Pilot Project: A Bold Experiment in Working Hours

From 2024, Germany will embark on an experimental journey with the four-day work week, launching a six-month pilot project. This project involves a collaboration with scientists to test the viability of this model across the nation. 50 diverse companies from various industries throughout Germany will participate, starting from February 1st. They will transition from a five-day to a four-day work week, without altering employee salaries. This bold experiment will culminate in a scientific evaluation conducted by the University of Münster, providing invaluable data on the practicality and impact of this change in working hours.

Challenging the Economics of Reduced Work Hours

The push for a four-day work week, while maintaining full salary, presents substantial economic hurdles. This arrangement would require an equivalent increase in hourly wages by 25%, assuming a 20% reduction in weekly working hours. For businesses, this model is financially sustainable only if there is a corresponding increase in employee productivity. This premise challenges the current understanding of work efficiency and output.

Productivity and Work Hour Dynamics

The relationship between work hours and productivity is complex. While there is evidence that excessively long work hours can diminish performance and health, reducing work hours per se does not directly translate to increased efficiency. The critical question is whether employees can achieve in four days what they currently do in five. This is particularly challenging for sectors where consistent production and output are crucial.

Macroeconomic Implications and Labor Market Considerations

In an economy like Germany's, grappling with workforce shortages due to demographic changes, the proposal to shorten work hours seems contradictory. The four-day work week could lead to a reduced labor supply, potentially resulting in lower overall economic output. This reduction in labor hours can have far-reaching implications on the economy, affecting everything from individual business operations to national economic growth.

Leisure Time vs. Economic Contribution

The increase in leisure time must be weighed against its economic consequences. While leisure contributes to personal well-being, it does not directly contribute to economic growth. In fact, reduced working hours could mean lesser contributions to government budgets and social security systems through taxes and duties, posing a significant challenge to the nation's financial health.

Impact on Social Insurance and Economic Systems

A shorter work week could have implications for social insurance systems, particularly in a pay-as-you-go financing structure like that of pension insurance. Reduced labor incomes would necessitate adjustments in pension benefits, impacting broader societal groups, including pensioners.


The concept of a four-day work week, while appealing for its potential to improve work-life balance, poses significant economic challenges. As analyzed by Clemens Fuest, President of the ifo Institute and originally published in WirtschaftsWoche, it is crucial to thoroughly evaluate the economic ramifications of such a shift. The pursuit of a reduced work week, without a comprehensive understanding of its impact on economic growth and stability, may be a step in the wrong direction for both businesses and the economy at large.

Sources: Four-Day Work Week? No Longer in Keeping with the Times! By Professor Clemens Fuest Experiment: 50 companies test four-day week

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