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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says four-day workweek could help rebuild country's economy after COVID-19

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says a four-day workweek could help rebuild the nation's economy in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. Ardern floated the idea during a Facebook Live earlier this week.

Speaking Tuesday from Rotorua, a tourist hub in New Zealand, Ardern brought up a flurry of suggestions that could help jumpstart the country's vital tourism industry, including the shorter workweek, which could encourage citizens to travel more. 

"I hear lots of people suggesting we should have a four-day week," Ardern said. "Ultimately that really sits between employers and employees. But as I've said there's just so much we've learnt about COVID and that flexibility of people working from home, the productivity that can be driven out of that."

"I'd really encourage people to think about that if you're an employer and in a position to do so to think about whether or not that is something that would work for your workplace because it certainly would help tourism all around the country," she added. 

Just finishing up a visit in Rotorua - thought I’d share some of the things coming through from our tourism industry...

Posted by Jacinda Ardern on Monday, May 18, 2020

Arden said domestic tourism makes up about 60% of the industry, but New Zealanders spend about $9 billion (NZD) on tourism internationally. 

"Think about exploring your backyard," she said. 

According to the country's official statistics, released in December, tourism generated about $16.2 billion,  or 5.8% of New Zealand's GDP. Nearly 230,000 people were directly employed in tourism — about 8.4% of the total number of people employed in the country. 

Ardern has been praised for her response to the pandemic. New Zealand has had just over 1,500 confirmed cases and 21 deaths in a population of about 5 million. In late April, she announced the country has "won" the battle against widespread community transmission of the coronavirus for the time being. 

"There is no widespread, undetected community transmission in New Zealand. We have won that battle," Ardern said on April 27. "But we must remain vigilant if we are to keep it that way."

Microsoft tried the idea of four-day work week last year, before the coronavirus pandemic, with promising results. Productivity rose 40%, according to the software maker. A June 2019 report from the Society for Human Resource Management said 15% of more than 2,700 American companies and organizations surveyed now offer a four-day work week option to employees, up from 12% in 2017.  

"While four-day workweeks are still relatively uncommon, organizations that have implemented them report no decreases to productivity or revenue as a result," the report stated. 

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