The future of work is here, and it’s a 4-day week 

Written by Charlotte Minvielle, Head of Business Development 

The Equal Measures 2030 Secretariat is a fully remote and global team with members based in Canda, India, Lebanon, the United Kingdom, Kenya, the United States, South Africa, Senegal, Spain, Cote d’Ivoire, Argentina, and Brazil. A recent survey sent out to our team members, found that 100% of respondents felt satisfied with our 4-day-week policy, with 86% being extremely satisfied.  

In a rapidly changing world, the traditional five-day work week is increasingly coming under scrutiny. New studies and pilot programs are heralding the 4-day work week as a game-changer for productivity, employee well-being, and even wider societal health. Equal Measures 2030 has been part of this movement, reaping the benefits of a shorter work week for over a year. In this blog post, we’ll delve into compelling evidence and firsthand accounts that underscore why it’s high time for the 4-day work week to go mainstream.

Enhanced motivation and wellbeing 

Since the policy has been put in place, our team has felt more motivated and energised. All respondents said that a 4-day work week had increased their job satisfaction. One of them said: “I feel that this schedule has allowed me to have more quality time with me, my family and friends and engage in self-care activities. I feel more fulfilled in general in both my personal and professional life”.  

From what our team is telling us, you work more efficiently to do the best you can during those 4 days. “It boosts morale, and it makes me want to stay longer with the organisation”. This was echoed by the findings of a UK pilot – the biggest in the world – which showed a substantial 57% drop in the likelihood that an employee would quit, dramatically improving job retention. 

Taking a cooking class, going for a walk, buying the paper instead of reading it online, volunteering, going to an exercise class or just resting -these are all things Equal Measures 2030 secretariat members have been up to during their free time on Fridays.  

All respondents to our survey said that they had seen improvements in their work-life balance. One employee said that the 4-day week had enabled them to “work on personal projects or just take time to read a book or do something [they] like” and another one shared that the scheme “reduced stress levels and improved happiness”.  

Increased productivity  

The 4-day scheme doesn’t just boost well-being, it can boost productivity and efficiency – a convincing incentive for private sector businesses. When the French IT company, LDLC, instituted a 32-hour week, they saw a 40% increase in profits. Annual turnover increased from €500 million to €700 million whilst employee numbers stayed the same. In fact, absenteeism and workplace accidents fell by 50%. 

Our employees found that the condensed week encouraged them to optimise their hours and better organise their tasks. One of them said: “knowing that there is a shorter timeframe to complete tasks helps me concentrate more.” 

Wider societal impact  

There are also wider social and environment benefits to a 4-day week. If countries decided to put in place a 4-day work week at the national level, it could have a significant impact on our planet. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the decrease in economic activity resulted in a significant reduction in carbon emissions with global daily emissions falling by 17% in 2020, according to a study published in Nature.  

For the economist Aurelie Piet, working less means polluting less. This is because it often leads to less travel, use of office lighting, elevators, heating, air conditioning or energy-intensive equipment. A 4-day week could reduce the UK’s carbon footprint by 127 million tonnes per year, which is the equivalent of taking 27 million cars – effectively the entire UK private car fleet- off the road according to The 4 Day Week Campaign research. 

Living our feminist values  

At Equal Measures 2030, we recognize that our lives don’t revolve solely around what we do professionally; time to ourselves is precious and what we are able to contribute to society outside of work matters too. According to our Executive Director Alison Holder: “I have long been persuaded by the value of the 4-day work week, and considering recent pilot studies, the evidence is clear. I am so glad we were able to put our feminist values into practice at EM2030 by implementing policies like this” 

According to Oxfam, women and girls undertake more than three-quarters of unpaid care work in the world. Our predominantly female team has told us how a 4-day work week has helped them better manage and cope with their caring responsibilities. One of them said that it allowed them to “organize personal and household tasks before childcare on the weekends”. Another one shared that: “with a child with special needs, I am able to schedule additional childcare tasks on Fridays”.  

As a team of driven and passionate feminists, there’s also often more we want to do to positively contribute to society. One team member has “been volunteering as a youth creator with a young feminist collective in India” on Fridays, whilst another has used the time to “take part in political activities which align with my values around feminism, the environment and social justice”. 

Additionally, our employees found that it allowed them to develop new skills that they might not have been able to gain otherwise – “I feel my job is a place that allows me to live other elements of my life more fully. Some of the things we may be doing on Fridays can contribute positively to who we are including as employees and team members”.  

Lessons for implementation 

It might be of no surprise that 100% of respondents to our survey would recommend a 32-four-day week to other organizations “without a doubt”. Here are some of our reflections and suggestions on how to make the process work for your organization: 

  • Reduce working hours to 32-hours per week and make sure that what you are offering is not just compressed hours over 4 days. And of course, guarantee that there will be no loss of pay for your staff in the process.  
  • Choose one day where everyone is off if your type of organization or business allows it. We decided to make Friday the non-working day for everyone. This made most sense for us logistically and we also believed that it reduces the pressure for anyone to be working on that day. As one of our employees put it: “knowing that the whole team is off on Fridays is more relaxing”.  
  • Take time to communicate this well with your employees. One employee recommends “a lot of communication during the implementation process and clear guidelines to prevent overwork”.  
  • Be prepared to explain your decision externally. You may be bought into this but fear how other stakeholders will react. As one of our staff members said: “The biggest challenge is aligning with partners and others who still work a 5-day week”. You have to be ready to clearly explain why you think this is the right decision for your organisation from a business and values standpoint.  

The fight for a weekend was one of the last century’s great labour victories; the push for a 4-day work week could very well be this century’s. The data is in, and the benefits are clear: from increased productivity and job satisfaction to meaningful contributions to gender equality and environmental sustainability. It’s not just a ‘nice-to-have’; it’s a must-have for any forward-thinking organization.  

We at Equal Measures 2030 urge companies and policymakers alike to take this leap forward. If you’re considering this move and need insights, we’re more than willing to share our journey and learnings. The future of work is here, and it’s a 4-day week 

The care crisis is a feminist issue, here’s why.

Written by Ester Pinheiro, Communications Officer, and Gabrielle Leite, Gender Data & Insights Analyst, Equal Measures 2030 

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, essential care services have become more visible in society and have further emphasised the vital, yet unremunerated and unrecognised, roles that women often play. 

Globally, women spend 2.8 more hours than men on unpaid care and domestic work, often working triple shifts. They work in their paid jobs, care for children and also take care of the family home; this triple burden impacts their physical and mental health, as well as their retention in the labour market. 

When schools and preschools closed during COVID-19, women undertook the greatest share of childcare. In 2020, it is estimated that more than two million mothers dropped out of the labour force and their participation in the workforce fell by 1.8 percentage points relative to 2019, which was almost double the decline observed for men.  

Nearly 60 percent of countries did not take measures to compensate for this increase in unpaid work, such as expanded family leave, emergency childcare services or cash-for-care services to compensate for school closures. On current trajectories, the gap between women’s and men’s unpaid care time will narrow slightly, but by 2050, women worldwide will still spend an average of 2.3 hours more per day on unpaid care and domestic work than men. 

Applying an intersectional lens to care 

The disparities are accentuated not only in relation to gender, but also to categories such as ethnicity, class and racial identity, with rural and Indigenous women spending up to eight more hours a week on care work than women who are not part of this population, as is the case, for example, in Mexico. 

 Among the 6.3 million domestic workers in Brazil, 84% are black, 95% are women and more than 50% of households headed by domestic workers are poor. And in Latin America and the Caribbean, lower-income women spend an average of 46 hours per week on unpaid work, compared to higher-income women, who spend an average of 33 hours per week. 

A roadmap for action 

For Milena Páramo, regional coordinator of CLADEM in Latin America, the care crisis has little by little emerged as a main issue on the regional feminist agenda and of the States of the region, and proof of this is the Buenos Aires Commitment (2022) adopted by the XV Regional Conference on Women. 

“The Buenos Aires Commitment recognizes care as a right of people to care, be cared for and exercise self-care and proposes that States advance agreements in specific areas to move towards a society of care, addressing the overcoming of social division. of work and the promotion of a social organization of care,” says Milena. 

For feminists in the Latin American region, the Buenos Aires Commitment is an important roadmap, “by strengthening the commitment of parties to move towards more just, equitable societies and challenging us to think not only about a new development model but also about new society model.” 

Care work is also increasingly recognised as central to unlocking progress on multiple Sustainable Development Goals. Addressing these gender imbalances in relation to the distribution of care work is not only relevant to gender equality and SDG 5, but is also linked to and can help address SDG 1 (end all poverty), SDG 3 (healthy lives and promote well-being for everyone at all ages), SDG 4 (inclusive and quality education for all), SDG 8 (create decent jobs for all and promote inclusive growth) and SDG 10 (reduce inequalities). 

This series of blog posts conducted by Equal Measures 2030, in collaboration with other feminist organizations, aims to raise awareness on the first UN International Day of Care and Support and to shed light on the importance of care work and the care economy, and the pressing need for accurate and inclusive data. Read the other blogs in the series:

Recognising the unpaid care economy for a gender equal future
The need for a gender data agenda that properly measures care

The key to Africa’s economic recovery? Pan-African Feminist alternatives.  

By Nadia Ahidjo, Africa Programs and Partnerships Lead & Esme Abbott, Communications Coordinator

To ensure Africa’s economic recovery is just and sustainable, African women must be front and centre of growth and economic policies. This extends beyond the optics and requires meaningful engagements in decision, discussions, and implementations of these policies. 

On certain aspects, especially around women’s political leadership; data from the EM2030 2022 SDG Gender Index reveals that countries like South Africa, Rwanda, Mozambique, and Ethiopia have far greater representation of women in their senior Government and Ministerial-level positions than countries like Denmark and Norway which are often touted as beacons of gender equality.  

Significant gains have also been made across the continent in terms of women’s use of digital banking and access to the internet (key gender indicators of SDG9 – innovation). Women in Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe are more likely to have used digital banking in the last year than women in Argentina, Indonesia, or Mexico. This is a step in the right direction but should be nuanced when it comes to translating into meaningful changes in women’s livelihoods.  

Poverty remains another underlying barrier across Africa and has intensified under the pressure of the pandemic which wiped out more than four decades worth of progress globally according to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Report. Yet even before the pandemic nearly 70% of women across Africa had concerns about their household income and whether it was sufficient for their families’ needs – a concerning number that was already growing between 2015 and 2020.

Austerity measures have become the ‘go-to’ option in times of crisis but even the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) own research shows that austerity measures increase poverty and inequality. Women are over-represented in public-sector, informal, and domestic care work, all of which are threatened by austerity measures. For many low-income countries, or those in economic crisis, austerity is not a matter of choice, but a requirement to access grants and loans.  

According to research by Oxfam, 76 out of the 91 IMF loans negotiated with 81 countries since the beginning of the pandemic push for cuts in public services, even in the very healthcare systems that are vital during a health crisis. Avoiding austerity measures will not only help African countries challenge patriarchy but also the neo-colonial practices that have stifled economic development.  

Countries across Africa cannot fully recover if these challenges are not put at the heart of economic policies and plans for growth. To do this, we must apply a Pan-African feminist1 and intersectional lens to all policies, ensuring that they resist neoliberal and patriarchal economic values and acknowledge the complex intersections of identity, race, class, gender, and culture. Without understanding how inequalities combine and accumulate, it is hard to identify the problems or the solutions, and policies will fail to provide the sustainable growth needed.  

A lack of timely, disaggregated data, results in policies that are neither intersectional nor inclusive. Not only will they fail to reach those most in need, but we will not have the evidence needed to point to their failure. Thirteen African countries were not included in the EM2030 2022 SDG Gender Index due to a lack of gender data.  
Major gaps continue to exist around unpaid care, domestic work and the gender pay gap – areas where sharp gender inequalities exist. These gaps make it harder to identify the needs of those most affected, whilst also resulting in a lack of accountability and economic policies that aren’t accountable, easily become ineffective, or worse, exploitative. Instead of slashing budgets, money should be invested in public services and public infrastructure and managed in a gender-responsive way (aided by the collection of gender data).   

Various African countries have written strong gender parity quotas into legislation but without accountability and enforcement they lack the practical application. It is not enough for seats to be open to women if the system is still dominated by a patriarchal culture that has historically worked to, and profited from, their exclusion. 

FEMNET have been clear in their demands for government policies to acknowledge intersecting discriminations and challenge oppressive systems such as patriarchy, capitalism, and neo-colonialism. 

When we adopt a Pan-African feminist lens, we place African girls and women at the centre of policies, and we start challenging these systems by questioning the power dynamics and privileges they impart. We raise questions about control of assets and resources, about cultural norms and values, and about power.  

Denouncing neo-colonial ideas that perpetuate inequality and instead centering African women and girls will lead to a recovery that is not just full, but equitable, and sustainable – important characteristics in a world that is set to see further shocks.  

1.We understand this as defined by the African Feminist Forum which places patriarchal social relations structures and systems which are embedded in other oppressive and exploitative structures at the centre of our analysis.

It’s 2020 (shudder). Who has time for feminism? (Hint: We all should.)

By Amanda Austin, Equal Measures 2030’s Head of Policy & Advocacy 

2020 is a year of upheaval. The [sense] of unease, uncertainty, and loss is pervasive. It is felt in all aspects of my life: as a working parent, a woman, an immigrant, and a social justice advocate. This is likewise true for my un(der)employed musician partner, for everyone I speak to among my family, my friends, and my colleagues living around the world.

With each day bringing headlines to make us shudder, we’re struggling to get from today to tomorrow without losing it. Trying to raise our heads above the waves can feel exhausting. This has to be true too for the policymakers making decisions everyday to try to rebuild.

Let me offer some help, here, Mx. /Mr./Ms./Mrs. Policymaker: feminism.

Want to design an effective cross-sector response to a public health crisis? Feminism.

Want to help your economy get back on its feet? Feminism.

Want to protect the rights of all of your citizens? Intersectional Feminism.

Want to build back better both at home and internationally? You guessed it. Feminism

The 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action — the most progressive blueprint ever for achieving gender equality and women’s rights — is 15 September 2020. A huge amount of progress has been achieved, but if 2020 has done anything, it’s reminded us of just how much further we need to go. Here are four pressing critical challenges demanding action:

Bending the Curve Towards Gender Equality research earlier this year from Equal Measures 2030 found that 67 countries — home to 2.1 billion girls and women — wouldn’t achieve any of the five key gender equality targets studied by 2030 if their pace of change continued. This was pre-Covid. UN Secretary-General António Guterres later noted “COVID-19 could reverse the limited progress that has been made on gender equality and women’s rights”.

Trends research drawing on data from the United States and India estimated women’s job loss rates due to COVID-19 are about 1.8 times higher than men’s. These data do not capture the significant shrinkage of the informal economy, where an estimated 740 million women work worldwide and where loss of work has been acute and immediate under lockdown conditions. This is compounded by the fact that women carry a greater burden of unpaid care responsibilities in every country around the world. According to one survey, COVID-19 has increased the time women spent on family responsibilities by an estimated 30% in India alone.

Within one week of France’s lockdown, reports of domestic violence increased by 30%; anecdotal evidence suggests the same trend in many countries. Marie Stopes International, a provider of contraception and safe abortion services, estimated that the pandemic could prevent 9.5 million girls and women from accessing their sexual and reproductive rights and services this year with potential significant impact on lives, health, and wellbeing for decades.COVID-19 has made existing inequalities worse just as other health and humanitarian crises have done before it. Policymakers should seize the momentum of the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform, the Generation Equality campaign, and multi-stakeholder Action Coalitions to channel investment that enable our communities and societies to rebuild. A feminist lens and feminist leadership can guide us out of this crisis. Female leaders are already showing the way. Let’s follow their example to support greater equity for women and girls from 2020 onward.