In a controversial move for some analysts, Greece has introduced a six-day workweek for certain industries starting this month in a bid to boost productivity and employment in the southern European country.

The regulation, which came into force on July 1, offers the possibility for a traditional 40-hour workweek to be extended to 48 hours per week for some businesses, but has faced backlash among some unions, several reports indicated recently.

The move to extend the workweek by another day comes at the odd time when other countries are increasingly switching to four-day working trials, including Europe’s largest economy Germany.

After outpacing other Europeans in terms of economic growth, the nation once plagued with the continent’s worst financial crisis is introducing a new working scheme, terming it as “growth-oriented.”

It is hoped that Greece’s six-day workweek plan will help combat undeclared work that leads to tax evasion, according to Greek public broadcaster ERTNews.

Tourist businesses and the food industry are not included in the policy.

Greece, already at the top among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, has an average weekly working time of 39.8 hours or 1,886 a year, according to the OECD data.

The European average for people aged 20-64 in their main job in the EU was 36.1 hours in 2023, according to Eurostat data.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the “nucleus of this legislation is worker-friendly. It is deeply growth-oriented,” the Guardian first reported earlier this week.

A spokesperson for Greece’s Ministry of Labor and Social Security told the BBC the policy applied to “two specific types of businesses.”

The BBC report on Wednesday cited these as businesses that operate continuously, 24 hours, seven days a week, using rotating shifts and businesses that operate 24 hours a day, five or six days a week, also with rotating shifts.

“In both cases, the extra working day option is an exceptional measure, permissible only in response to increased workload,” said the spokesperson.

“Greek people already work the longest hours per week in Europe. Now they may be forced to work a sixth day, after this Greek (government) decision,” John O’Brennan, professor of EU Law from Maynooth University, Ireland, said via social media platform X, formerly Twitter, on Monday.

People on pensions, who have also been encouraged to work under the legislation, have weighed into the debate.

“What the government is essentially saying is ‘go and work longer. We’ll turn a blind eye even if you’re a pensioner,’” The Guardian quoted Grigoris Kalomoiris, who heads the union of retired teachers (Pesek), as saying.

With the latest decision, despite targeting growth Greece appears to find itself in the opposite direction to other nations, with some claiming that the four-day weeks policy has proven successful in a handful of companies when trialed in Germany, Belgium and Iceland.

Some economists on the other hand opine the idea of the shorter workweeks as lukewarm, saying that the solution to labor shortages would be longer, not shorter hours. In the case of Greece and the broader impact of the new policy in terms of economic growth, only time can tell how the introduction of it will eventually play out.

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