Coronavirus New Zealand: Jacinda Ardern floats idea of four-day week to boost economy post-lockdown

PM says four-day week would also help workers achieve better work-life balance

Jacinda Ardern flags four-day working week as way to rebuild New Zealand after Covid-19.mp4

A four-day week could boost the economy and help employees achieve a better work-life balance, Jacinda Ardern has suggested, as New Zealand resumes business following an eight-week coronavirus shutdown.

The prime minister, who has been widely praised for her handling of the pandemic, says that a shorter week and more public holidays aimed at promoting domestic tourism may provide a much-needed lift to the country's economy in the coming weeks.

In a video recorded in Rotorua, one of the country’s main tourist hubs in North Island, Ms Ardern said much had been learnt about the flexibility of working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I hear lots of people suggesting we should have a four-day work week. Ultimately that really sits between employers and employees," she said in a Facebook Live broadcast.

"But as I’ve said there’s just so much we’ve learnt about Covid and that flexibility of people working from home, the productivity that can be driven out of that.

“I’d really encourage people to think about that if you’re an employer and in a position to do so. To think about if that’s something that would work for your workplace because it certainly would help tourism all around the country.”

Tourism is vital for the New Zealand economy and is worth around 6 per cent of GDP, according to government figures. One in eight Kiwis works in the sector, which brought in $16.2bn (£8bn) in 2019.

New Zealand lifted its nationwide lockdown last week having recorded just 21 Covid-19 related deaths, with a further 1,553 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Schools reopened for children on Monday after the government dropped the country’s coronavirus alert system down to “level 2” at the beginning of May.

While lockdown restrictions have been eased, New Zealand's borders remain shut to tourists and foreigners, having closed on 23 March.

They will not reopen until the director-general of health "is satisfied that the risk of imported cases from overseas has reduced significantly", the immigration office said in updated guidance on 13 May.

Holders of work, student and visitor visas who were resident in the country before 2 April have been granted automatic extensions, while applications from those already in New Zealand will be prioritised over applicants from overseas, the immigration office added.

This will make it more difficult for Britons who had been planning to emigrate to New Zealand for work and travel.

There were up to 20,000 British nationals living, working or travelling in New Zealand prior to lockdown, according to official figures, many of whom travelled back to the UK during the pandemic.

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