Costing A 4 Day Week in the German Public Sector

20 October 2021

At a glance:

  • The notion of a shorter working week – or four-day working week – in Germany has found new momentum in political, trade union and broader, public spheres in recent years.


  • This paper contributes an understanding of what the costs and benefits of such a policy would be, if it were implemented in the public sector (with no loss in pay).


  • It finds that a 30-hour week in the public sector is not just desirable for worker wellbeing and for reducing the costs of burn out and presenteeism; a 30-hour week would also create hundreds of thousands of jobs and establish a new standard for all employment in Germany.


  • A four-day week would create an estimated 610,000 new fulltime equivalent jobs.


  • Such a policy is eminently affordable and achievable: on Autonomy’s conservative calculations, a 30-hour week could cost around €11bn.


  • This fgure is only 4% of the total public sector wage bill, and 0.8% of the German government’s spending budget in recent years.


  • Public sector employment takes up a relatively high proportion of employment (above 10%) in Germany – entailing that a 30-hour working week would benefit a significant chunk of the labour market.


  • We show the relative cost of such a transformative policy relative to other proposals being discussed in Germany today, such as NATO spending and tax reforms.

Serpil Midyatli, chairwoman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) in Schleswig-Holstein said:


“Historically speaking, working hours have dropped drastically since the 19th century. Since the 1990s, this trajectory has been stalled however. This report adds additional momentum to the necessary debate on working time reduction. This discussion is not just about the mental and physical health of workers – in a world where both parents work, working time reduction is a necessary condition for the fair sharing of care work. The public sector has a key responsibility in this context. The state has to show that working time reductions are possible, not least because it would significantly increase the attractiveness of state employment in a competitive market for skilled labour.”



Philipp Frey, author of the report and researcher at Autonomy, said:


“The time has come for a four-day working week in Germany and the public sector should act as the pioneer for it. To help tackle unemployment and deal with future automation and technological change, the four-day week is the policy needed to future-proof our economy.”



Philipp Frey