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The 4-day workweek would exclude half the US workforce

  • While shorter workdays or workweeks might boost productivity and work-life balance for some, low-wage hourly workers, as well as nurses and teachers, would not immediately benefit from these changes, experts tell Business Insider.
  • Because of low pay, hourly shift workers are actually looking for more hours to work. And nurses and teachers face challenges with too many patients and large class sizes.
  • Advocates say centering white-collar employees in the shorter workweek discussion hurts low-wage workers.
  • Visit the Business Insider homepage for more stories.

Long before Microsoft’s four-day-workweek experiments, Colorado school districts shifted to the same schedule, in part to entice teachers with a better work-life balance.

There was just one problem, says elementary-school teacher Kallie Leyba: “Teachers can’t afford to ski.”

Colorado teachers like Leyba say they already work longer than 40 hours to get paperwork done, on top of receiving among the lowest statewide educator pay. Colorado’s shorter workweek hasn’t helped these major issues, says Leyba, who serves as president of the state’s American Federation of Teachers branch.

As the conversation around fewer work hours gets more traction, experts say at least three segments of the workforce — low-wage workers, teachers, and nurses — could be excluded from the benefits that a shorter workweek provides.

Teachers and nurses represent 6 million people; workers earning less than $15 represent 65 million people. Together, that’s nearly half the labor market.

“Very often when we think about life conflict and over work we have a vision of white-collar workers in mind,” says Daniel Schneider, a researcher at the Shift Project at the University of California at Berkeley. “It’s super important we bring in hourly workers into the conversation.”

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