More than 100 prominent German politicians, trade unionists and economists are demanding the measure in an open letter published on Monday.
“We need to make shortening working hours a project for society as a whole, it cant be a purely wage-related political task.” Hein-Josef Bontrup, professor for economic law in Gelsenkirchen and co-initiator of the letter, told daily newspaper the Tageszeitung.
Signed by leading politicians from The Left party, Katja Kipping and Sarah Wagenknecht, the “Project Shorter Working Hours” argues introducing a weekly 30-hour limit would help combat mass unemployment in Germany.
“Along with the three million unemployed people in Germany there are over three million part time workers working on average 14.7 hours a week, which for them is insufficient,” the letter said, adding also that an oversupply in the work market was pushing down wages.
Change would need to be phased in over several years though and would only work if there was no drop in pay.
Bontrop told the Tageszeitung he was aware that union bosses would be sceptical of the move because they believed their employees would be too scared about a pay cut and having to do the same amount of work in less time.
“My experience is that a fundamental knowledge and awareness is lacking,” he said, adding that many union leaders “don’t get first-semester economics. You have to limit labour otherwise you can’t raise wages.”