June 15, 2021

35-hour workweek and 1.5 million more workers


A labor market in which 1.5 million more people work, with half unemployed and with 35 hours a week compared to the current 37.7 hours. It is the horizon drawn by the study ‘Spain 2050. Fundamentals and proposals for a Long-Term National Strategy’ presented this morning by the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez. The report, in which 100 experts for Moncloa participated, is committed to promoting immigration to increase the number of workers, in a way that alleviates the aging of the population a little and contributes to the maintenance of the public pension system, among other benefits economical.


Diaz rejects the "rigidity" four-day workweek and advocates other avenues of flexible hours

Díaz rejects the “rigidity” of the four-day work week and advocates other ways of flexible hours

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The hours worked per week per person have already been reduced in recent years, “they have gone from an average of 42 in 1980 to 37 in 2019”, points out the document of the National Office of Prospective and Strategy of the Presidency of the Government . The latest data from the study places it at 37.7 hours. The goal outlined in the report is to continue reducing these hours to 35 hours of work per week in 2050, to “place it at levels similar to those of the EU-8”.

This goal is included in the section on measures to “promote healthier and more satisfying work.” The idea of ​​the Moncloa office is “to continue adapting the legislation to achieve more flexible hours and shorter working hours” until reaching those 35 hours a week in 2050, “taking advantage of the opportunities of digitization and improvements in productivity.”

The flexibilization of schedules, for which I bet this Wednesday Vice President Yolanda Díaz in a conference of elDiario.es, “They have led to a clear improvement in the reconciliation of work and personal life and the levels of well-being of millions of workers”, indicates the text presented today by Moncloa.

The study points out several challenges in the labor market in Spain for the next three decades. Challenges such as the expected aging of the population, automation and the transformation of many jobs due to technology, as well as old labor ills in Spain, such as the high temporality, precariousness and unemployment compared to our European neighbors.

In addition to the recipes that the Government already intends to undertake and that it has promised to Brussels –Such as the reduction of temporary contracts, the promotion of permanent internal flexibility tools that prevent layoffs (such as ERTE) and the modernization of active employment policies to facilitate labor insertion–, the report presented by Pedro Sánchez includes a set of longer-term goals and objectives, for 2050.

One of the main objectives is to notably increase the employment rate (workers compared to the population of working age), reaching 80% compared to 62% today. This means “increasing the number of employed persons by 1.5 million compared to the level of 2019”. A goal is also set to greatly reduce unemployment, so that the unemployment rate will be cut in half by 2050, to 7%. “It is an ambitious but feasible goal that several countries around us have already achieved,” says the document.

The proposed increase in the number of workers is mainly focused on certain groups. Specifically, it is committed to increasing employment among young people, promoting the employment of women so that it continues to approach the level of men, as well as guaranteeing the permanence of workers for more years in the labor market.

The latter is one of the maxims of the document, also with the aim of guaranteeing the public pension system in the long term: the need for people to work longer, in line with the increase in life expectancy. Spain is currently the second country in the EU with fewer workers aged 65 and over. The document from the La Moncloa prospecting office sets the objective that the employment rate of people aged 55 or over will reach 68% in 2050 from the current 51%.

“If we manage to equate the activity rates of our population over 55 years of age with that of countries like Sweden or Denmark, Spain will gain 1.6 million active people by 2050, something that will help enormously to mitigate the negative impacts of the fall of the labor force and to improve the well-being of millions of households “, highlights the study.

More immigration to sustain the welfare state

The other source of workers, an indispensable leg to sustain the public pension system over time, focuses on increasing immigration. “Promotion of legal immigration and the recruitment of foreign talent as additional ways to boost our economy and prop up the viability of our welfare state”, describes the text, as it has already recommended bodies such as the Independent Authority for Fiscal Responsibility.

The Spain 2050 Strategy assumes that the country will continue to receive more immigrants than those who leave our borders, which allows the population to increase. And, very importantly, the working-age population. “Specifically, a migratory balance of about 191,000 people a year is projected between now and 2050”, a figure “slightly higher than the average observed between 1990 and 2019”.

But ideally the number should be even higher. “If we can integrate more, the better. For example, if we achieve an annual migratory balance of the order of 255,000 people, the drop in the working-age population would be 1.8 million people (instead of 3.7 million projected in a scenario with a migratory balance of 191,000) “, contemplates the study.

This population influx “will help, in part, to mitigate the demographic challenge in the short and medium term, but it will not solve it by itself in the long term, since the immigrant population also ages and tends to adapt to national fertility patterns” .

Faced with the anti-immigration speeches, the Moncloa cabinet recalls that “empirical evidence shows that the increase in immigration does not lead to an increase in unemployment, while it does benefit the economy.” This has happened in Spain so far. “Between 1998 and 2007, Spain received 3.8 million immigrants and the employment rate increased by 17 points,” recalls the report.

The foreign population constitutes “a key workforce in sectors such as care or agriculture, they contribute to public finances, and do not resort to public services and benefits such as unemployment benefits or pensions more than the Spanish population” .

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