Chile Says ‘Yes’ to a 40-Hour Week

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    The Chilean Congress approved last Tuesday to reduce the weekly working period from 45 to 40 hours, making that country the Latin American nation with the shortest working week, together with Ecuador. The proposal, which was sanctioned by the Chamber of Deputies after its unanimous approval in the Senate, gradually reduces working hours over a period of 5 years.

    One year after its application, the working day will be reduced to 44 hours per week. After 3 years, the limit will be 42 hours, and after five years (5 years), it will reach 40 hours, which is the working time recommended by the International Labor Organization (ILO).

    The law provides for the possibility of working 4 days and resting 3 days (unlike current legislation, which requires a minimum of 5 working days). And contemplate the possibility of doing a maximum of 5 extra hours per week (currently, you can do up to 12 extra hours).

    Fabio Bertranou, director of the ILO regional office in Santiago, told BBC Mundo that the law contemplates a special regime for sectors that require extraordinary working hours, such as mining or transportation. In these cases, employees will be allowed to work shifts of up to 52 hours per week, as long as they later have a greater number of days off to compensate. “The law contemplates the possibility that the 40 weekly hours can be reached by averaging 4 weeks. So, if you work more than one week, the important thing is that the average is 40″, he explained.

    With this law, Chile becomes the second country in Latin America, after Ecuador, to approve the work week recommended by the ILO. After this approval, Chile is in line with most of the other 38 countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), where the 40-hour work week is also in force.

    The only exceptions are Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France and the Netherlands, where less than 40 hours are worked, and Germany, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ireland, Israel, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Turkey, where more hours are worked.

    How much work is done today in Chile?

    Although current regulations in Chile allow working up to 45 hours per week -a shift that was reduced from 48 hours in 2005- ILO statistics show that the average hours worked are much lower.

    According to data from January 2023, in Chile employed people worked an average of 36.8 hours per week. As you can see below, this is one of the lowest averages in the region.

    In fact, the average hours worked throughout Latin America is well below the limit established by law.

    If we make a global comparison, the average weekly hours worked in Latin America and the Caribbean (39.9 hours) is much lower than in the Arab countries (44.6 hours), those of Asia-Pacific (47.4 hours) , East Asia (48.8 hours), and South Asia (49 hours). Instead, it is greater than that of Western Europe (37.2 hours), North America (37.9) and Africa (38.8 hours), according to 2019 data compiled by the ILO.

    Does it mean that in Latin America, and in Chile in particular, little work is done?

    “No”, answers the specialist NajatiGhosheh, who works at the ILO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. “What happens is that, in some countries, only the time worked in the formal sector is measured and not the marginal one, where there are more workers who only get jobs per hour, which lowers the average”, he explained to BBC Mundo.

    According to Bertranou, the data provided by Chile includes the informal sector, which represents 27% of workers. Of the total labor force, about 45% work a 45-hour week, but more than 40% work less than 35 hours. Meanwhile, 11% work above the maximum allowed by law today, with days that exceed 49 hours a week.

    Bertranou highlighted that the Chilean labor reform was achieved thanks to the fact that “a space for dialogue was opened with the business sector” and there was a consensus among Chilean society on the importance of “freeing up time to have more family life and to be able to enjoy public space”.

    According to the ILO, which approved its convention on the 40-hour work week in 1935, working more increases the number of accidents at work and health problems, but it does not guarantee more productivity, since there is more fatigue. “Latin America has lagging legislation in terms of working hours and it is imperative that a review be carried out”,Bertranou recommended.

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