The UK's Four-Day Week Experiment

Three facts about the world's largest four-day week experiment from job postings data

August 16, 2022 by Elena Magrini

In June, the UK began the world’s largest trial of a four-day workweek, with over 3,330 workers at 70 companies seeing their working week cut by one day with no loss in pay. While the experiment is underway, we turned to our library of over 77 million job postings to see how this trend is affecting recruitment activity in the labour market. Below are three main takeaways from the data.

The number of postings advertising a four-day week has dramatically increased in the past year – but from a very small basis.

There were just over 4,000 job postings in July advertising for a ‘four-day week’ –  accounting for 0.12 per cent of all job postings over the last month. Whilst this number is still low, the time series below shows how this figure has gradually increased over the past six years, with a sevenfold increase in the number of job postings for a ‘four-day week’, and the trend particularly starting to pick up as part of the recovery from the Covid disruption:

The geography of the ‘four-day week’ is different from that of ‘remote working’ 

Whilst the ‘four-day week’ has been in the headlines of all major national newspapers, in reality job postings advertising for it are not equally distributed across the country. 

When looking at the breakdown by regions in the map below, we find that Northern Ireland has the largest share of job postings advertising for a four-day week (0.38 per cent), followed by the South West (0.17 per cent) and Wales (0.12 per cent).  In contrast, the four-day week is least popular in London, followed by the North West and the North East.

Within regions, a handful of local authorities such as Cornwall, East Dorset and Craven stand out when it comes to a four-day week, with over 0.6 per cent of job postings advertising for it – driven by a handful of employers championing this new trend – but the vast majority of local authorities have seen little to no take up of this trend so far.

This geographical distribution of job postings for a four-day week is somewhat different from that of remote working – another key post-pandemic labour market trend. Indeed, when it comes to remote working, London is the area with the largest amount of job postings being advertised as remote (12 per cent), followed by the North West and South West (both 8 per cent), while remote working is least popular in Wales and East Midlands (both 6 per cent) (you can toggle between data for the four-day week and remote working using the arrow at the top of the map below).

The four-day week is not just for roles in high-skilled occupations 

One possible explanation for the different geographic pattern for the four-day week compared to remote working may lie in the type of occupations advertising for these different perks. Unlike remote working – which is skewed towards high-skilled, office-based roles – when it comes to the occupations with the largest share of job postings advertising for a four-day week, the picture is mixed. Skilled Trade Occupations come at the top, with 0.28 per cent of all job postings offering a four-day week, followed by Process, Plant and Machine Operatives (0.18 per cent) and Professional Occupations (0.10 per cent), suggesting the four-day week is not just advertised in high-skilled roles.

Looking beyond occupations, the most in-demand hard skills in postings advertising a four-day week are service quality, marketing and maintenance engineer, while the top three soft-skills are communication, management and customer service.

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