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The introduction of a four-day working week - but on the same pay - is something that industries have speculated about and employees have dreamt about for many years. But now, 41 Spanish firms - including 11 in Catalonia - are going to give it a try.

In April, the Spanish ministry of industry, commerce and tourism launched a call for companies that want to participate in implementing a four-day working week without cutting workers' wages. Up to 41 small and medium-sized industrial enterprises (SMEs) have applied to take part in this pilot project, eleven of which are in Catalonia. The two-year project, launched by the ministry through the Fundación Escuela de Organización Industrial (Industrial Organization School-Foundation) aims to collect data for a "reliable and extrapolated evaluation to all small and medium-sized companies in the industrial sector", as the body reported on Wednesday.

For the minister Héctor Gómez, “this pilot programme offers industrial SMEs a new way of organizing their working hours with reductions in working time without affecting wages and improving their business results.” Four-day working week have been trialed in a number of countries over recent years, and in some cases the changes have become permanent. The principal advantage sought from the reduced hours is an improved work-life balance for the worker, while both employer and employee can benefit from better productivity and improved work place morale. Cost reductions for the company are another common advantage. 

Spanish government pays most of firms' costs in trial scheme

In the trial, employees will work at least 10 percent fewer hours a week, but will receive wages as if they worked a normal 40-hour week. The Spanish government will subsidise between 75 and 90 percent of wages for the time which employees are paid for but won't work. Companies with up to 10 employees will be able to get 90% of the personnel cost covered in this way during the first year, while those with between 11 and 52 people having a subsidy of 80 % and those with more than 53 workers and less than 249, 75%. 

The total value of the eligible expenses requested by the 41 projects presented amounts to 2.83 million euros and the total number of workers assigned to the pilot projects is 503. "The diversity and quality of the proposals submitted demonstrate the talent and creativity of interested industrial SMEs, covering a wide range of sectors, such as engineering, architecture, electrical material and equipment, rubber, pharmaceuticals, textiles, and distribution and food," the ministry explained.

Eleven of the 41 applications from industrial SMEs to access this pilot project are from Catalan firms. The other autonomous communities that complete the list are Andalusia (6), Galicia (4), the Basque Country (4), Asturias (3), Navarra (3), the Canary Islands (3), Madrid (2), Cantabria (1), Castilla and León (1), Castilla-La Mancha (1), Extremadura (1) and the Balearic Islands (1).