On Tuesday, Chile’s Congress enacted a hard-fought law to progressively reduce the work week from 45 to 40 hours, giving President Gabriel Boric a legislative victory amid declining support.
Despite facing setbacks such as the rejection of a progressive new constitution by voters and the defeat of a crucial tax bill in the legislature, Boric, who promised an ambitious programme of social and economic changes upon taking office last year, has achieved a minor success with the work-week bill.
The government aims to move the nation away from its free-market constitution, and the bill is awaiting Boric’s signature.
The new legislation aligns Chile with the majority of developed countries, requiring one hour less of labour per week every year until the workweek reaches 40 hours.
With overwhelming support, the bill received 127 votes in favour and just 14 against. As countries like Britain and Spain are experimenting with reducing weekly work hours, the bill comes at a time when Chile is also moving in that direction.
Several companies in Chile have already announced that they will adopt the bill, including state-owned copper giant Codelco, which earlier this year said it would seek to implement the 40- -hour work week by 2026.
Some smaller firms have criticized the new law, saying they have insufficient resources to hire more workers and replace lost hours.
Minister of Labor Jeannette Jara told reporters that the gradual implementation was designed to address this, but “the main thing is that we have to make progress in rights for workers.”
Design company Organic Style, who introduced the 40-hour week voluntarily during the pandemic, said the change had proven positive.
“It’s a very good initiative that has changed our lives,” owner Danitza Becerra said.