Growing support for a four-day work week in Canada

Political leanings and pandemic affect how Canadians view working fewer hours

Your politics may determine whether you think a shorter work-week is a good idea, an Angus Reid Poll has found.

Last week the poling company released results of a June 8-10 survey that found a slim majority of Canadians supported a 30-hour work week.

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However, the 53% who want to work fewer hours has taken a significant jump since 2018, possibly reflecting new attitudes about work during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Two years ago only 47% of those surveyed thought it was good idea, compared to 53% today, with NDP or Liberal leaning voters more inclined to give thumbs up to fewer hours.

Six-in-ten past Liberal and NDP voters say a 30-hour work week would be good for Canada, twice the number of past Conservative Party of Canada voters who say the same. Meanwhile, two-in-five past CPC voters are against the idea.

Working shorter weeks has been getting some support in high places, New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern floated the idea a few weeks ago and even Premier John Horgan said the idea is worth looking at.

Angus Reid poll results
Angus Reid poll results - Angus Reid


However, it’s not that easy to work a shorter work week and keep the same quality of life, a right-wing think tanks suggests.

The Fraser Institute stated in a report earlier this month that Canadians would need to be 2% more productive to achieve the same standard of living with a shorter work-week.

However, the report said, seeing such a growth rate “would be a substantial improvement over Canada’s recent historical performance.”

“Given its recent productivity performance, achieving a two per cent per annum growth in labour productivity in the years ahead arguably represents a challenging, but potentially achievable, outcome for the Canadian economy,” the document said.

However, with many local businesses struggling to stay afloat during the COVID-19 restrictions, it may be too early to consider reducing the work-week for now.

Many employers are struggling to even bring back workers and the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce told the Tri-City News in a recent interview that while the idea might be worth entertaining, now is not the time for a change.

“The four day work week is something we can look at, every business will be different down the road. Right now, we’re in a recovery phase. If you’re in retail, you’re not worried about a four day work-week, you’re worried about the rent,” said Chamber CEO Michael Hind.

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