Would You Work Six Days a Week? Greeks May Have No Choice

A six-day work week: a leaked email reveals that European officials are demanding this from Greece, as one of the terms for receiving its next €30 billion installment of bailout funds.

A one day weekend? I can hear the complaints in the U.S. (and even louder ones from college students who seem to think the weekend begins on Thursday night).

The Troika Makes a Harsh Demand

Last month, officials from the “troika” of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB) visited Athens, to check Greece’s progress in making a further €11.6 billion in spending cuts. These cuts were supposed to have been made in June, when Greece was in political paralysis as a second round of elections had to be held after May elections gave no party enough of a majority.

In the past few weeks, the Greek prime minister, Antonis Samaras, has made the rounds in meeting European heads of state, seeking — and seeming to gain, from Germany and France — assurances they want Greece to remain in the euro zone rather than for a “Grexit” to occur. Greece must meet its bailout terms but Samaras has been trying to change those somewhat. Greece’s economy is in it fifth year of recession and Samaras wants Greece’s creditors to let it have four years to implement fiscal reforms instead of an agreed-upon two.

The demand for a six-day work week is one of those conditions.

The 40-Plus Hour Work Week

Some facts about the hours of the work week in the context of workers’ rights and economic gains.

1. A six-day work week could mean working 48 hours per week. The International Labor Organization has said that standard working hours cannot exceed 48 hours per week and eight hours per day. A six-day work week in Greece would edge near that limit.

2. By way of comparison, Foxconn employees have worked seven-day work weeks. One of the reasons that Apple supplier Foxconn came under fire was that employees were working in excess of 60 hours a week. By July 1, 2013, Foxconn says workers will not work more than (a mere) 49 hours a week.

3. Another comparison: In Turkey, across the sea from Greece, a typical work week is 45 hours long, to be spread out over six days.

3. Advantages of a longer work week? South Koreans once had the longest working hours in the world (49.3). But with the rise in economic prosperity, a five-day work week became the national standard in 2002. While there are now more people working in South Korea for fewer hours, some analysts point out that more workers have less stable jobs and that the number of short-time workers has grown.

5. A seven-day work week was the U.S. norm — over 100 years ago. In the US in the 1880s, the typical work week averaged 60 hours — yes, far longer than the 40 hours considered routine for working Americans now.

6. Working more than 40 hours a week could be bad for your health. Studies have shown that working longer hours can be hard on your body. It’s also been argued that a 40-hour work week is necessary to maintain our sanity.

Could the Troika’s Demand Backfire?

Greeks are already striking regularly over wage cuts and backpay. Greek daily Ekathimerini reports that Wednesday, a number of civil servants — including hospital doctors, hospital administrators, members of the judiciary and university officials — are holding strikes or threatening them, to protest salary cuts and demand payment for overtime and emergency shifts.

The troika’s request for a longer work week for Greeks, whose work culture is viewed as “dysfunctional” outside its borders, is certainly an infringement on Greece’ sovereignty. It could lead to further clashes between fed-up Greeks whose salaries and pensions have already been cut several times. Is this demand another step on (what some keep predicting) Greece exiting the euro zone?


Related Care2 Coverage

Euro Crisis: Would You Like To Buy a Greek Island?

Euro Crisis: A Big, Maybe Bad, Week For Greece

4 Challenges Greece Faces and a Contest

Photo by George Laoutaris


Carl Nielsen
Carl Nielsen5 years ago

The Greek should be thankful the other Euro nations are willing to keep their corrupt arses afloat - the Greek are 100% responsible for the mess they are in. Nobody forced them not to pay taxes, nobody forced their political parties to hire people for jobs where they never even had to show up for work, nobody forced the Greek public servants to demand their "little envolopes" in order to provide the services they were already being paid for and nobody forced them to forge their statistics in order to be allowed to join the Euro.

Susan O.
Susan O5 years ago

I'm in the US, and my company has us on mandatory overtime 6 days a week, 10 hours a day. We also work all holidays, if those are our scheduled work days.

Guess my 85-year-old widowed father really doesn't need to see me after all. And God Forbid that I get sick ... I get no sick time, and can't even use vacation days as sick days.

Welcome to the Republican Dream!

Aslan Avdi
Past Member 5 years ago

Here in Australia, I too work 6 or 7 days a week - because I have to, to survive.
I'm sure many others are in the same boat.
The Greek crisis was brought about in small part by them not paying enough taxes, having a huge 'black' economy, and being ruled by crooks for decades.
In large part it was the fault of the Global Banking sector, that led to what we now know is the Global Financial Crisis Parts One/Two...and counting.
If you bail out bankers, you are just continuing the misery.
Pay out people's mortgages instead. (limited to 300k USD)
They then will have somewhere to live, even if they don't have a job.
This cuts back on welfare spending trying to house those who would have been homeless.
The banks will still get the money from the mortgage payout, and thus still exist.
Those who don't have mortgages get a cash handout of 10,000 USD.
Its fairer than what we currently have.
And its simple.

Sue T.
Susan T5 years ago

Oh and I do work 6 days a week so STFU! and sometimes 7 if you count my volunteering time. Count your blessings

Sue T.
Susan T5 years ago

well this is what happens

Linda Wallace
Linda W5 years ago

Not much wonder they feel angry.

change twentytwelve

The top levels of the Greek government should take at least a 25% pay cut, and the big question is how do you put people to work 6 days a week, when there is a major job shortage Worldwide?

Dorothy N.
Dorothy N5 years ago

We're not talking about people being scared of hard work - we're talking about a global sucking up of all rights and resources by a very small group of people who have shown themselves typically unwilling to allow anyone else the resources to survive.

We're talking about the attempted deletion of worker, consumer, human, environmental protecions by a group so detached from reality that they believe it's OK to destroy an entire world of life to add to their hundreds of millions or billions.

We're not talking about democracy, civilization, sanity - we're talking futureshock nasty with an unhappy ending for all concerned.

Industrialization was supposed to bring better living standards and shorter work weeks for us all.

Instead, we go from needing to work 6 days a week to get by to having it mandated, along with 13 hour work days and the other appalling demands of the European commission, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund for Greece, and the rest of us will not be far behind, as even higher levels of what little we have are taken by the few, to add to their mountain of wealth.

We voted for democracy, not for this.

Dorothy N.
Dorothy N5 years ago

The median and mean household net worth dropped considerably between 2007 and 2010, but even as both dropped, inequality increased, with the median—the amount of wealth that half of people have more than and half of people have less than—dropping by 38.8 percent, while the mean—the amount you get when you add up all the wealth and divide it by the number of people—lost just 14.4 percent. That means that the amount everyone would have if wealth were distributed equally went from being 4.6 times the amount the person actually in the middle has to being 6.5 times that number.

So: Prior to the financial crisis and the recession, there was massive inequality in America. Following the financial crisis and the recession, there is a Grand Canyon of inequality in America. For good reason, we talk a lot about how much of the wealth the top 1 percent have. We talk less about how little the bottom 50 percent have, but think about what it means that 50 percent of people have just over 1 percent of the money. Forget all the definitions you've heard of who is in the underclass. We're on track to have "underclass" and "majority" be synonyms. And the Republicans have got a guy running for president who wants to speed the process.

Dorothy N.
Dorothy N5 years ago


Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 01:07 PM PDT
Forget the top 1 percent. Let's talk about the bottom 50 percent for a minute.

by Laura ClawsonFollow for Daily Kos Labor

(Can't seem to copy the graph here)

Between 1989 and 2010, the top 1 percent of the population went from holding 30.1 percent of the wealth to 34.5 percent, while the bottom 50 percent went from having 3 percent of the wealth to having just 1.1 percent. That's right: In 2010, 50 percent of Americans had 1.1 percent of the total net worth (PDF), according to the Congressional Research Service. The share of wealth held by the next 40 percent of people, up to the 90th percentile, had also dropped, from 29.9 percent to 24.3 percent. Put another way (and it's stunning however you look at it), 10 percent of people have 74.5 percent of the wealth.
Table showing the median and mean household net worth for selected years 1989-2010. Ratio of mean to median shows increasing inequality.
attribution: Congressional Research Service
The median and mean household net worth dropped considerably between 2007 and 2010, but even as both dropped, inequality increased, with the median—the amount of wealth that half of people have more than and half of people have less than—dropping by 38.8 percent, while the mean—the amount you get when you add up all the wealth and divide it by the number