Sanna Marin. Picture: LEHTIKUVA VIA REUTERS/VESA MOILANEN
Sanna Marin. Picture: LEHTIKUVA VIA REUTERS/VESA MOILANEN

Helsinki — As Finland’s prime minister, 34-year-old Sanna Marin, scanned international news headlines this week, she may have been surprised to learn that she was being credited for looking into the feasibility of a four-day working week.

On Tuesday, Marin’s government put an end to the myth.

The idea of drastically shorter working hours was briefly touched on by Marin in August, months before she was made prime minister in December. But the government now wants to make clear that a four-day week isn’t on the agenda and “there hasn’t been any recent activity” on the topic, according to a Twitter update on Tuesday.

Marin first discussed the idea during a panel debate at the Social Democratic Party’s 120th anniversary event last summer, where speakers took stock of the movement’s achievements — including the eight-hour work day — and envisioned future causes. The political movement has struggled to find relevance among younger voters, as pensioners become a more dominant group among its base of supporters.

Painting in broad strokes to describe a future in which a Social Democratic welfare state becomes carbon-neutral and equitable, Marin envisioned “utopian” scenarios.

“A four-day work week, a six-hour workday, why couldn’t that be the next step? Is eight hours the final truth?” Marin asked on August 17. “I think people deserve more time with their families, hobbies, life. This could be the next step for us in working life.”

Finns work on average about 40 hours over a five-day work week, according to the statistics office, but unemployment remains high and many have fallen outside the workforce. That’s prompted a broad debate on work in Finland in recent years, including the first nationwide experiment on a form of basic income run by the previous centre-right government from 2016-2018.

Marin’s Social Democrats rule together with four other parties on the left and centre of the political spectrum.

Bloomberg