28th June 2014
7-Day Week, 6-Day Week, 5-Day Week, Soviet Calendar
In the year 2010 I read Martin Varsavsky's blog entry on The 6 Day Week by Carlos Varsavsky. In this post Martin Varsavsky states his father, born in 1933, proposed the 6-day week, i.e., work 4 days and rest 2 days. To cope for the reduced productivity, it is proposed to interleave the 6-day week for different groups of people in the country. The idea sounded interesting, and probably worthwhile to be studied more intensively. The post makes no reference to anything except to a Wikipedia link to his father Carlos Varsavsky, who first worked as astrophysicist, later worked under the direction of Wassily Leontief in economics.
I discussed the 6-day week with a colleague, who pointed out that the idea had been tried in the Soviet Union, albeit with limited success, see, e.g., Soviet calendar.
The 6-day week was proposed by Soviet economist Yuri Larin in 1929, according Wikipedia. So the idea was public 4 years before Carlos Varsavsky was even born. In the 6-day week people would work 5 days, and rest 1 day, i.e., 83% utilization. Please remind, that in the beginning of last century it was usual to work 6 days and rest 1 day in the usual 7-day week, i.e., 86% utilization. Germany switched to the now common relation 5 days work and 2 days rest not before 1956, i.e., 71% utilization. In the 5-day week the relation would be 4 days work to 1 day rest, i.e., 80% utilization.
The Soviet Union during the Stalin tyranny tried the 5-day week from 1929 to 1931, and the 6-day week during the period of 1931 to 1940. Due to lack of economic success the idea was ultimately abandoned in 1940. The following factors played a role for its failure:
- Workers not only took the newly decreed free day, but also the usual Sunday, so effectively 2 days per 6-day week.
- Although officially adopted by 75% russian workers, it is likely that districts just claimed they had adopted the 6-day week, but still used the traditional 7-day week.
- The 6-day week was also intended to break ties to christian believes, especially Sunday mass.
- Chances increase that the right people for a complicated machine, which fails or is not used in the proper way, are not in the office.
Initially the following argument favored a 5-day or 6-day week: Constant, and therefore better, utilization of machinery and real estates. If one uses schools, universities all days, or expensive machine shops round the clock, you make better use of invested capital. It is interesting to note that nowadays more and more shops are open on weekends. Workers and employees often work on Saturdays, and even Sundays, although workers still work 5 days and rest 2 day.