The Chamber of Employees is calling for a general reduction in working time with the aim of a 36-hour week. Our colleagues at 5minutes spoke to Minister of Labour Georges Engel about his thoughts.

Is it possible to reduce working time in Luxembourg within a short period of time?

The minister first highlights that the current coalition agreement does not foresee a reduction in working time. However, a study by LISER (Luxembourg Institute for Social Science Research), which analyses the advantages and disadvantages of a reduced working week is due to be published in March. The minister hopes to lead a discussion based on facts, rather than feelings or ideas.

He does not see why this topic should be ignored. After all, 'the 40-hour week is not given by God', but rather something that resulted from negotiations of the 1970s. The minister therefore thinks the time has come to renegotiate.

When asked whether he was in favour of a shorter working week in Luxembourg, the minister responded that he was 'not against it.' However, he is waiting to see the results of the LISER study before he comes to any conclusion.

RTL

Georges Engel, ministre du Travail: "Je suis persuadé que l'attractivité future de notre marché du travail dépend de ce que nous allons décider pour le temps de travail". / © RTL

With the ever-increasing workload, wouldn't a reduction in working hours make Luxembourg more attractive?

The minister recognises that the discussion indeed revolves around the attractiveness of the labour market in Luxembourg to some extent. Historically, that attractiveness has mainly been linked to wages, but these days, neighbouring countries are increasing their salaries. The German minimum wage, for example, is increasingly similar to that of Luxembourg.

Engel continues by explaining that in his opinion, the future attractiveness of the labour market depends on what is decided about working hours. The reduction of working hours would lead to several factors, he adds:

"If we want to attract people to Luxembourg, if we want to remain a country where people like to come to work, if we want to reduce the risk of illnesses - because more working hours means more illnesses - if we want to help our National Health Fund, if we want to have a better work-life balance, if we want to help our children to live in a more pleasant environment, if we want to support volunteering or social life in Luxembourg, I believe that a reduction in working time can be a key element."

This government has introduced a new extra day off by making 9 May a public holiday. But it will fall on the same day as Ascension Day (already a public holiday) next year...

In 2024, Europe Day on 9 May will fall on the same day as Ascension Day, which means that there will be two public holidays on the same day. This has never been the case in Luxembourg before, and there is a gap in the legislation. If a public holiday falls on a Sunday, the holiday can be taken as a day off. But if it falls on another public holiday, it is not clear in the legislation. Because of this,  the minister hopes to change the legislation so employees are be able to take a day off in compensation.