TEL AVIV – Israel’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a bill allowing for six three-day weekends per year with the eventual goal of having Sunday off every week.
At present, Israel’s weekend officially starts on Friday afternoon and runs through Saturday in order to accommodate Muslim and Jewish Sabbath prayers. While most Israeli Jews do not work Fridays, those who are religiously observant cannot drive or do many other activities on Saturday.
The law was proposed by MK Eli Cohen (Kulanu) as a step toward having Sundays off each week.
“Moving to a long weekend will dramatically change the characteristics of labor,” said Cohen, “and has many benefits, including reducing exhaustion of workers, improving the balance between work and family life, improving quality of life, contributing to economic branches like trade and tourism, and synchronizing vacation days between schoolchildren and their parents.”
Cohen argued that Israel’s long hours have the adverse effect of lowering productivity. At 43 hours a week, Israel has three more hours than the OECD average, but its productivity is low compared to hours worked.
Another study from the Histadrut labor union affirms that there is an inverse correlation between longer work hours and GDP per capita.
Cohen’s proposal for the long weekends – Friday, Saturday, Sunday – will begin in 2017. Some hours will be made up during the rest of the week but will reduce the work load by 8.5 hours for every two months.
The amount of school days will remain as they are since two of the long weekends are set to take place during the summer vacation while the rest will be taken out of Passover and Hanukka vacations.
Critics are saying the plan will not be economically effective for two reasons: Religious Muslims and Jews may work less efficiently on Fridays and adding the missing hours to the rest of the week will lower productivity since studies have shown that people get more tired toward the end of the workday.