Histadrut: Time to Reduce Israeli Workweek

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (R) seen with Histadrut Chairman Avi Nissenkorn during a press conference on December 9, 2015. Photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90
Finance Minister Moshe Kachlon (R) seen with Histadrut Chairman Avi Nissenkorn during a press conference in 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

According to OECD figures, Israel’s official workweek of 43.5 hours is among the longest in the developed world – and workers need a break, according to Histadrut chairman Avi Nissenkorn. In a letter to Finance Minister Moshe Kachlon and Chairman of the Israel Business Association Shraga Brosh, Nissenkorn asked for some consideration on cutting the workweek.

“As I have stated in the past, the time has come to cut the workweek to 40 hours, and to institute at least six ‘long weekends’ annually. This will be of great assistance to workers, and to the economy.”

In March, MK Eli Cohen (Kulanu) introduced legislation that would give all Israelis a paid day off on the first Sunday of every month. According to sources, the government is inclined to partially support a bill that would provide a day off on Sunday once a month – except it would be for only 8 months of the year, specifically the months that do not have other non-Shabbos days off (such as the secular months in which Pesach and Sukkos occur).

Cohen is not the first official to think of this idea; former National Economic Council head Eugene Kandell suggested between 4 and 8 “long weekends” stretching from Friday to Sunday each year. Even if the move would cost the economy NIS 1.2 billion in products and productivity costs, it would stimulate the leisure economy. Jewish Home MK Shuli Moallem also suggested such a law in the past, and both Jewish Home and Kulanu support the bill to an MK.

In a response to Nissenkorn, Brosh said that that the move would hurt productivity. According to a business analysis, the economy would stand to lose NIS 35 billion annually if such a move were implemented. “We can see where this is going,” said Brosh. “We need to set realistic goals for ourselves, and one goal I would suggest is raising productivity in order to improve the economy and develop the basis for a leisure economy as in other countries. If we raise the standard of living in Israel by 20% in the next five years it will bring in its wake many positive developments.”

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