Billionaire Carlos Slim pushes a 3-day workweek

The second-richest person in the world says people should work 10 or 11 hours a day, and then have more time to enjoy life.

By MSN Money Partner Jul 22, 2014 12:05PM
Credit: Zuma Press/Rex Features

Caption: CarlosSlimBy Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch

Working a shorter week would likely make most people feel happier and even more productive, experts say. And research suggests it may also help boost employment rates.

Mexican telecom billionaire Carlos Slim (pictured) -- the second-richest person in the world after Bill Gates -- recently advocated a shorter workweek for the world's corporate clock-watchers. 

"With three work days a week, we would have more time to relax, for quality of life," Slim told a business conference in Asuncion, Paraguay, in remarks reported Monday by the Financial Times. Having four days off would also be a business opportunity for some people, in that it would generate new leisure activities, he said.

But don't go slacking just yet. Slim says people should work 10 or 11 hours a day in those three days. He also says retirement ages should rise to 70 or 75.

Slim may be on to something with his idea, according to some experts. In fact, he's just the latest to make headlines in a long-running debate on the length of the ideal workweek.

"Burnout is huge predictor of loss of productivity," says Rana Florida, CEO of consulting and research company Creative Class Group and author of "Upgrade: Taking Your Life and Work from Ordinary to Extraordinary."

The 40-hour workweek in the U.S. is not some "magical number" for productivity, she says. "You don't have to chain people to their desk."

Shorter working hours make sense in particular for people in highly stressful jobs like emergency first responders, and those in creative fields, Florida says.

Most other countries have shorter workweeks than the U.S., according to recent analysis from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. And workplace productivity doesn't increase with hours worked, the OECD concluded. Workers in Greece clock 2,034 hours a year versus 1,397 in Germany, for example, but the latter's productivity is 70 percent higher.

"Quality of life, stress reduction, and engagement in our work increase with shorter workweeks," says Steve Langerud, a workplace consultant based in Grinnell, Iowa. That said, if income dropped with hours worked, shorter workweeks could create problems. The average household disposable income in Germany is also a lot higher ($30,721 a year) than Greece ($19,095).

Countries with the largest reduction in work hours had the largest increase in employment rates since the Great Recession, says Dean Baker, co-director of the left-of-center Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. "Countries like Germany stand out," he says. "It's been remarkably successful." The unemployment rate in Germany (5.2 percent) is down more than 4 percentage points since before the 2008 recession, while the U.S. unemployment rate (6.1 percent) is still more than 1.5 percentage points higher than it was before the recession.

Cutting the workweek roughly in half could help to address overwork, unemployment, overconsumption, high carbon emissions, low well-being, entrenched inequalities, and the lack of time to simply to enjoy life, according to a report from the London-based, left-of-center think tank New Economics Foundation. "The deputy mayor of Gothenburg [in Sweden] is trialing a 30-hour week for some of his staff because he thinks that's about the limit for productive time," says Anna Coote, head of social policy at NEF.

A shorter workweek doesn't necessarily lead to happier employees, however. Long working hours might not be as negatively related to worker well-being as predicted by other studies, according to a study called "Work Shorter, Be Happier?" published last year in the Journal of Happiness Studies. While people welcomed the reduction in working hours, those reductions had no impact on job and life satisfaction, researcher Robert Rudolf, assistant professor in the Division of International Studies at Korea University, found.

Five-day workweeks may lead to exhaustion on Mondays and coasting on Fridays, but that's more likely if you don't like your job or feel engaged with your work, or if you don't believe that it has some higher purpose, says Rusty Rueff, career and workplace expert at career site Glassdoor. 

"We've all been in places where we've pulled all-nighters and we're going back to the pizza box for the second time and the pizza's cold," he says. "You sort of hate that you're there, but at the same time there's nowhere else you'd rather be."

More from MarketWatch

Jul 22, 2014 2:23PM
I actually worked a three day workweek for a period of time.  It was a twelve hour shift, three day week that did, indeed, give four days off.  I was paid for forty hours for this, and that is a fairly common practice in manufacturing jobs that employ a twelve hour day style situation.

My productivity equaled a five eight hour day week with room to spare because I'd lose an hour starting up and an hour winding down, but had longer productive periods in between that time compared to the eight hour shifts. 

My home life was better.  I spent time with my kids, and when I did chose to make some extra overtime money, I still enjoyed three days off in that week.

I had so much spare time that I barely regarded vacation pay as a benefit, since I barely needed it in order to have a real life.

It was fantastic.

Jul 22, 2014 1:42PM
I agree with Mr. Slim, contingent upon the 3 days worked for 10-11 hours each day yielding a wage that can pay for a home, transportation, clothing, food, and support the extra liesure activities we are supposed to participate in with the extra time. I think his idea is basically excellent, but the details must be worked out to account for adequate incomes or (dare I say it) price controls. It is a Utopian idea, similarly but genuinely considered in the 1970s, that disappeared quickly. I do not think there is much quality of life for most people under the current system in this country.
Jul 22, 2014 2:04PM
Jul 22, 2014 2:08PM

Wow a billionaire that does not think their employees are their corporate owned slaves?


What next raises for the completely broke Middle Class, increase coverage of benefits...NAH!


The 185 familes in the U.S that own and run / ruin the country would never agree. Do you know how hard it is to try and get by on $25 billion.? The few evil billionaires that own the lap dogs in Congress are just a new for of organized crime (families)


Lets not get crazy with a 3 day work week idea. The loser Trust Fund babies of these billionaires  can't possibly get by on their billions in inheritance. These losers scare me the most. They have never worked a day in their life. Talk about welfare receiptiants.


Maybe someone will come up with another crazy idea... Billionaires that actually pay taxes? Corporations that stop paying off Congress and eliminate the tax avoidance / evasion. NAH...Corporations in the U.S get $1.3 Trillion in tax evasion/ I mean tax breaks, I really mean Tax evasion/ criminals.  The criminals are in control. Stop  the criminals... Term limits and publically paid elections and not a privately owned Congress. The the main sources of EVIL.


Why spend $800 billion on Defense every year when Congress has vaporized the Middle Class.



Jul 22, 2014 2:41PM

I think the work week should be 32 hrs. regardless!  We need to go back to family morales.

Jul 22, 2014 2:44PM
That's a great idea as long as I don't have to take a pay cut.
Jul 22, 2014 1:52PM
many companies do something close to this. atleast the 3 days part. they work 3 12 hours days and they pay them for 40 hours. no loss of imcome but the workers are more productive. other companies have doen 4 ten hour days. the 3 days at 10 hours would never work and some industiries don't fit well with these types of changes but there is little doubt that having more days off is a benefit to most people. i would much rather work 4 ten hour days than 5 eight hour days but some industries could'nt make that work
Jul 22, 2014 1:54PM

"With three work days a week, we would have more time to relax, for quality of life," Slim told a business conference in Asuncion, Paraguay

Only if you are a salaried employee (getting paid the same amount regardless of hours worked).

An hourly wage employee would end up homeless or having to work one or more additional jobs (that don't exist in this economy) to cover living expenses.  Living paycheck to paycheck is stressful, ask anyone (even more so with multiple jobs to juggle).

Jul 22, 2014 2:45PM

I have always said it.... 4 Days 10 hours a day = 40 hours leaving an extra day for people to enjoy. The body and brain needs 3 days to rest.


Studies show that when you workout your body requires a whole week to recover from the work out... so why shouldn't the same be expected from working?

Jul 22, 2014 2:08PM
if any billionaire wants to truly and genuinely help the current world's population reduce stress, anxiety, and poor quality of life, they should fund programs to slow  the world population growth. 

Overpopulation is the single biggest factor when all it means is increasing and escalating conflicts for limited resources and jobs. 

Jul 22, 2014 1:47PM
That's because he does not have to work....duh
Jul 22, 2014 4:20PM

Really?, so why he has the mexican workers in Samborn's  (bigest chain of restaurants owned by him) working 12 hours per day 6 days a keek standing in their feet  for only  USD 20.00 dollars per day in Mexico City ? and if people want to go to the bathroom as a client or any other happen to be in the store-restaurant  has to show the ticket of something  purchased there in orther to have the right to use the bathroom otherways you have to pay the worker there $2.00 pesos for a limitted amount of toilet paper or a towel to dry your hands. I am so surpraised to read this non sense article maybe he is under the influence of a drug to publishing this because has been the King of explotation of the mexican workers since he grtaduated from the Public Mexican University in Mexico City.

This men easily sold his soul to the Davil for money and now he potrey himself as a good samaritan? Really? I woudl like he publish this in Spanish  in Mexico City to see the reaction of the ones that really know who is he...!

Jul 22, 2014 3:25PM
Looks good on paper, but I can barely stand to be at work 8 hours a day. I don't think I could manage 2 mores hours a day. And the closer I get to retirement age the more they talk about moving the retirement age. That is the worst of it all. There is no way I want to work until I'm 70. I don't feel like even working to 65-66.
Jul 22, 2014 1:40PM
What an idiot!  

The implicit assumption, of course, is that people's wages will NOT decrease commensurate with working only 30-33 hours per week instead of the standard 40 hours.

And don't you just love how billionaires pontificate about how other's should live their lives.
think about this modern productivity makes a worker 100,000 times more productive than someone 100 years ago. That said perhaps the correct solution will be to have people work ten years of their lives at which time they have out produced someone 100 years ago by a factor of 20,000 times

Hmmm we could live 20,000 times better than people 100 years ago and only work 10 years.

Seems like we are wasting a lot of productivity and energy on products that break down after 1 or 2 years use. We could reduce industrial use of energy by 1,000 fold merely by requiring things to be built for 1,000 to 2,000 year use. Imagine a car lasting 2,000 years the same energy that builds today's cars that last about 15 years would then build cars lasting 2,000 years over a 100 times in building energy.

You can build light bulbs with filaments that do not have weak spots to burn out easy and remove the oxygen in the light bulb with burning a bit of aluminum to take out the air. Then run the bulb on DC current and it will last forever not two months.

Pretty much we are wasting time and energy on building things that have shorter and shorter life times. If we all just work ten years and build things that last thousands of years we would have a much better life style. Imagine garbage dumps becoming a thing of the past as we do not throw away things at the drop of a hat.

Jul 22, 2014 2:01PM
More idiots opposed to sensible change that would improve the quality of their working class lives.
Jul 22, 2014 2:11PM
If the 3 days could add up to the same pay why not, but don't think for a second anyone will pay overtime after the 3 days.  Not only that most big stores are already there only letting there workers work a certain amount of hours anyway to get out of paying the bennys. It also produces more weekend workers who have no choice but to work. Do you really think any salaried person will be allowed to work 3 days for the same amount. Let this guy take back all his illegal workers that are here and use them for a test engine in his own country.
Jul 22, 2014 1:45PM
Being an American, I would just go get another job to fill my time and potential job earning power.
Jul 22, 2014 2:20PM
Señor Slim is just having some fun with the little people.
Jul 22, 2014 3:09PM
It seems there are many on this site that hate their lives so much that they can not stand hearing anything positive for others. Very hateful people.
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