UAE rolls out world's first 4.5-day workweek: 5 countries that may soon follow

From New Zealand to Japan, the idea has been steadily gaining ground globally

A general view of downtown in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, June 9, 2021.

A general view of downtown in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, June 9, 2021.

REUTERS/Christopher Pike

The UAE is slashing its official working week to four-and-a-half days and moving its weekend to Saturday and Sunday in a major shift aimed at improving competitiveness.

Under the new timetable, to be implemented from January 1, 2022, the public-sector weekend starts at noon on Fridays and ends on Sunday. Friday prayers at mosques will be held after 1:15 pm all year round.

While becoming the only Gulf country not to have a Friday-Saturday weekend, the resource-rich UAE is now the first country in the world to roll out 4.5-day workweek.

From New Zealand to Japan, the idea has been steadily gaining ground globally. Hailed by its proponents as a means to increase productivity, improve work-life balance and mental health of workers.


Japan government has been pushing employers to cut down the working week to four days as part of a series of new economic guidelines.

These guidelines were finalised in June 2021 and aims to bring about work-life balance, pursued companies to move towards offering more flexible hours and remote working.

The idea is to improve productivity and assist employees who have to take care of their families or want to learn new skills, reports Independent.


In March 2021, Spain announced its intention to try a four-day workweek after the government agreed to a lunch a pilot project for companies interested in the idea, according to the Guardian.

The Spanish government agreed to a 32-hour workweek over three years, without cutting workers’ compensation.

Spain will invest around $60 million toward the costs of the pilot program for the companies that want to participate and program is intended to reduce employers’ risk by having the government make up the difference in salary when workers switch to a four-day schedule.

It's anticipated that around 200 companies and from 3,000 to 6,000 workers will be involved with the project.

New Zealand

The idea of a four-day week has received a major boost from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

The idea of four-day week has been touted as a way to improve work-life balance, and PM Ardern believes it could boost the country's economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a Facebook Live Video posted on May 2020 Ardern shared the suggestion while discussing ways to revive the domestic tourism in her country.

Individuals could use long weekends to visit local spots. The increased domestic travel could compensate for the lack of foreign travels as the country is heavily dependent on tourism.


Iceland had conducted several large-scale trials of the four-day workweek.

And the results were an overwhelming success and led to many workers moving to shorter hours according to a BBC report. The trials, in which workers were paid the same amount for shorter hours, took place between 2015 and 2019.

Productivity remained the same or improved in the majority of workplaces, researchers said.


Scotland plans to launch a trial of a four-day 32-hour workweek.

Workers will have their hours reduced by 20%, but won't suffer any loss in compensation according to Forbes.

The program will be funded by the SNP with a $13.8 million fund and the money will be used to experiment with the abbreviated workweek.

The government points to a recent poll in Scotland that showed 80% of the people responding to the idea were highly positive of the initiative.

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