The government appears to be prepared to approve legislation that would give Israelis six long weekends a year, with work suspended from Thursday night through Monday morning. Legislation set to be submitted to the Knesset would mandate six Sundays as days off, meaning that anyone who does work will get time and a half for their work.
But not everyone – especially manufacturers – are happy with the idea, and in fact, among factory owners, 90 percent oppose the legislation. Eighty-six percent said that productivity will fall as a result of the new idea. The new law calls for the hours lost on Sundays to be made up during the workweek, but 70 percent of manufacturers believe that some hours will be lost anyway.
According to OECD figures, Israel’s official workweek of 43.5 hours is among the longest in the developed world. 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.
Chairman of the Israel Business Association Shraga 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 percent in the next five years it will bring in its wake many positive developments.”