Chile Approves Bill Cutting Work Week to 40 Hours from 45

Workers of a print and merchandising company, whose employees already work 40 hours a week, are seen as congress approves a bill reducing the number of weekly working hours from 45 to 40, in Valparaiso, Chile April 11, 2023. REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido
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SANTIAGO, April 11 (Reuters) – Chile’s Congress on Tuesday passed a hard-fought bill to gradually cut the work week to 40 hours from 45 hours, a legislative victory for President Gabriel Boric amid faltering popularity.

Boric, who took office last year pledging an ambitious agenda of social and economic reforms, has suffered several setbacks, including voters rejecting a progressive new constitution and legislative defeat for a key tax bill.

But the work week law – which now awaits Boric’s signature – constitutes a small victory for an administration that has been trying to shift the country away from its free-market constitution. The new law mandates one less hour a week of work per year until the work week reaches 40 hours, bringing Chile in line with most industrialized nations.

The bill, which had overwhelming support with 127 votes in favor and just 14 against, comes at a time when countries around the world like Britain and Spain are experimenting with reducing weekly work hours further.

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.

(This story has been corrected to say work week cut to 40 hours from 45 hours, not 45 hours from 40 hours, in paragraph 1)

Reporting by Natalia Ramos in Santiago and Rodrigo Garrido in Valparaiso; Writing by Isabel Woodford; Editing by Alexander Villegas and Rosalba O’Brien

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principle

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