The Bank of Israel is fine with the idea of long weekends for Israelis – as long as the kids remain in school. Extra days off for students will impact on services, causing longer lines at doctors’ offices and other places, and while implementing weekends off could be a positive development, it needs to be implemented slowly and gradually, over several years.
The Ministerial Law Committee is set on Sunday to discuss the law proposed by MK Eli Cohen (Kulanu) that would give Israelis six long weekends a year, with work suspended from Thursday night through Monday morning. The law would mandate six Sundays as days off, meaning that anyone who does work will get time and a half for his work.
According to OECD figures, Israel’s official workweek of 43.5 hours is among the longest in the developed world. In March, Cohen 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.
According to the Bank of Israel, Israelis currently work 250 days a year, based on a six-day workweek of 42.5 hours. Giving them six extra days off a year will result in a productivity loss of 2.5 percent annually, it said. While that was not devastating, it should be implemented gradually, the Bank said.
Not everyone – especially manufacturers – are happy with the idea, and in fact, among factory owners, 90 percent oppose the legislation. 86 percent said that productivity will fall as a result of the new idea. The new law calls for the hours to be lost on Sundays to be made up during the workweek, but 70 percent of manufacturers believe that some hours will be lost anyway.
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.”