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City of Zurich to trial 35-hour workweek

Zurich
Less work for the same pay? Yes please, says the city of Zurich © Keystone / Michael Buholzer

Zurich city employees will pilot a 35-hour workweek following a decision by the local parliament.

The reduction in working hours will be tested with city employees who work in shifts and therefore more likely to be exposed to high levels of stress. In addition to employees in care and support services, this includes people working in cleaning, police or transport companies.

“We urgently need to slow down,” said city councillor David Garcia Nuñez. Many employees today suffer from stress and burnout. “Who, if not the rich city of Zurich, can afford to try the 35-hour week.”

Backed by a left-wing majority, the local parliament voted in favour of the motion for the shorter workweek by 60 to 57 votes.

It is unclear how much this trial will cost. If the shorter workweek was introduced throughout the entire city administration, one estimate puts the additional expenses at CHF110 million ($118 million). Another 1,500 people would need to be hired to fill gaps.

The city plans to evaluate the pilot “scientifically” by analysing not only employee health and productivity but also CO2 emissions due to reduced commutes.

Similar proposals for a shorter workweek with the same pay have been discussed at the federal level. Until now, they have been rejected.

Employees in Switzerland work an average of 41.7 hours per week in a full-time job. It also has one of the highest share of employees working part-time, especially among women.

Several countries and companies around the world have been testing shorter work weeks, including Iceland, Sweden and New Zealand. The idea gained traction during the coronavirus pandemic which has brought work-family balance into sharp focus amid lockdowns and home office requirements.

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