Skip to main content
A Magazine for Sheffield

Four-day week could create 7,000 jobs in Sheffield

A new report reveals that a move to reduce working hours could help the city's economy avoid a post-pandemic spike in unemployment.

Shane rounce 3 6g W4 Y1m8s unsplash

A four-day week could reduce congestion on Sheffield's roads by cutting commutes.

Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash.

A new report shows that the introduction of a four-day week could create around 7,000 new public sector jobs in Sheffield, in what would be a significant boost to the post-pandemic local economy.

The original findings come from the thinktank Autonomy, which found that a nationwide move to reduce public sector hours could create 500,000 new jobs across the UK.

With 51,718 public sector jobs in Sheffield - nearly a fifth of total employment - this could amount to around 7,000 new jobs in the city when factoring in existing part-time arrangements.

"A public shorter working scheme could be an essential tool for both job retention and job creation as we try to recover from this Covid recession," Autonomy's research director Will Stronge told Now Then.

"Working shorter hours has well-documented benefits for people and planet, but in the current context of a looming unemployment avalanche it has only increased in importance."

Many economists expect unemployment to spike when the Treasury's furlough scheme winds down at the end of October. This could be exacerbated by a second coronavirus wave or by local lockdowns in areas across the North already hit hard by austerity.

Autonomy's new proposal would see employees in the public sector, including civil servants and local government workers, move to a standard 32-hour week with no drop in pay.

They hope this would kickstart efforts to reduce working time across the rest of the economy, creating even more jobs in the private sector.

Such a move would be popular with the public. A recent Survation poll found that two-thirds of people in the UK support the idea, with 57% of Conservative voters saying they either strongly or somewhat support a reduced working week.

More surprisingly, 64% of business people surveyed in September 2019 backed the idea, rising to 73% in larger businesses which employ more than 500 staff.

Pie chart total autonomy colours 2

July 2020 Survation polling on the four-day week, commissioned by Autonomy.

Autonomy say that now is the time for the public sector - which accounts for almost 17% of employment across the UK - to pioneer working time reduction.

"With a 32-hour week in public organisations, this policy would create a new gold standard that the private sector can follow," said Stronge.

"Northern areas such as Doncaster, Sheffield, Liverpool and Blackpool all have relatively high rates of public sector employment, so this could be a gamechanger for those working populations.

"The pandemic has accelerated political interest in the idea, with the 4 Day Week Campaign attracting support from MPs across the Commons including Clive Lewis, Caroline Lucas and Mhairi Black.

Rick, a public sector worker in Sheffield, told Now Then that switching to a four-day week had made him feel "less tired in general."

"I did it for quality of life reasons, as I like the freedom and flexibility of three-day weekends, and it's a much better balance than working full time and trying to pack everything into a two-day weekend," he said.

"I've had to sacrifice a bit of a pay cut to allow me to do that, but I value that extra free time over having slightly more money, and don't mind being slightly frugal in some areas in exchange. I'm pretty sure everyone would be less stressed if they had a five-day salary and four days of work."

by Sam Gregory (he/him)
Filed under: 

More News & Views

More News & Views