Can women afford a 12-hour workday?

In Austria, the introduction of the 12-hour workday is currently being discussed, but the debate is shaped by mistaken assumptions about gender and the nature of work.

Christine Tragler
Christine Tragler Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
Can women afford a 12-hour workday? - NewsMavens
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Why this story matters:

The Austrian government is currently caught in a stormy discussion over whether or not to allow an extended workday. But what do feminists think about the 12-hour shift?

The main concern among women is that politicians are only concerned with paid work, meaning that they do not take into account the reality of long unpaid hours of work at home in addition to their regular shifts. At the moment, it is estimated that women work on average 27 unpaid hours per week, while men average at 11 unpaid hours.

In her blog, Beate Hausbichler writes:

"The twelve-hour day and the eight-hour day five times a week are only convenient for families where women give up their financial independence, or for well-off families who can afford to buy their way out of regressive labor and gender policy." 

Policymakers may argue that the 12-hour workday will allow workers and businesses to be more productive, but they turn a blind eye to the fact that for many Austrians, the hours spent at home are not necessarily hours of leisure, and the additional hours could take a serious toll on them.

Details from the story:

  • The government of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache has agreed on a controversial motion aiming to make work hours more flexible. 
  • The motion will allow overtime, up to 12 hours per day. Employees will have the right to refuse an eleventh or twelfth hour of work for personal reasons.
  • The maximum daily hours will be raised from 10 to 12 hours. The weekly limit will be raised from 50 to 60 hours.
  • Employee representatives believe that allowing such a heavy workload will be "an unbelievable interference with leisure time, health, and work-life balance".
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