40-hour week - 40-Stunden-Woche

The 40-hour week is a state or employment contract regulation of the weekly working time to 40 hours.

In Austria it has been the maximum normal working hours of the collective agreement for all employees since 1975 (albeit with exceptions), in Germany (West) it was valid from 1965 to 1984 and applies to most civil servants.



Since the founding of the first trade unions , one of their main demands has been to reduce weekly working hours. They were able to assert themselves insofar as they succeeded in continuously reducing working hours in the first half of the 20th century with increasing productivity of the economy. After the Second World War , they averaged 48 hours (6 days of 8 hours). In the 1950s, collective bargaining policy in Germany was characterized by a good economy. The unions managed to negotiate noticeable wage increases. In 1955 the German Trade Union Federation (DGB) issued the demand and the slogan on May Day : “40 hours of work are enough!”. [1]A year later, the DGB started a campaign to introduce the five-day week under the motto “Saturday is my father”. [2] The aim was to work 40 hours a week (5 days of 8 hours each).

In the same year, the 40-hour week for the cigarette industry was the first to be agreed in a collective agreement. Working hours were also reduced in the other sectors. In 1965 the 40-hour week was introduced in the printing industry. The metal industry and wood processing followed in 1967. This paved the way for the 40-hour week as the standard for the majority of industries. It was introduced in 1969 in the construction industry, 1970 in chemicals, paper and textiles, 1971 in retail, 1973 in insurance, 1974 in banks and in the public sector. Agriculture followed in 1983. [3]

In contrast, there is no legal regulation in the Working Hours Act , only the eight-hour day is regulated here.

Further development

With the achievement of the goal of the 40-hour week, the unions set new goals for reducing working hours. The aim was now the 35-hour week . This was agreed in 1990 in the West German metal industry, as well as in the steel, electrical, printing and wood and paper processing industries. In other industries, a 38.5-hour week was negotiated.

In the 1990s the influence of the trade unions in the collective bargaining disputes declined. The reasons given are the economic development , unemployment, the decline in membership of the trade unions and globalization. As a result, instead of shortening working hours, extending working hours was also discussed. The reason given was the risk of jobs being outsourced or entire departments ( offshoring ) abroad and further job losses due to the high wage costs.

A number of industries have returned to the 40-hour week since the mid-1990s.

In some federal states, weekly working hours in the public sector have been increased again. Since 2004, the 42-hour week has been in effect in federal states such as Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia the 41-hour week. [4] In the Bundeswehr, however, the weekly working time was reduced to 41 hours in accordance with Section 30c, Paragraph 1, Clause 1 SG , which had previously been an average of 58 hours. [5] In Bavaria, the weekly working hours for civil servants from 2012 was within three years gradually reduced to 40 hours. [6]


Even the ministerial draft of 1958 for the introduction of a new law on working hours provided for a 40-hour week for 1 January 1963 as part of a step-by-step reduction in working hours. [7] In Austria, the 45-hour week has been in effect since the general collective agreement of February 1, 1959 [8] . The Social Democratic Party , initiated in 1969, the petition for gradual introduction of the 40-hour week , which was signed by 889,659 people. The ÖGB and the WKOsubsequently agreed on the required gradual introduction: in 1970 normal working hours were reduced to 43 and in 1972 to 42 hours per week. In 1975, the 40-hour week was finally reached as normal working hours. Since 1985, 38.5 hours per week have also applied to some industries.


After the First World War and after the general strike of November 12-14, 1918 [9] , the labor law in Switzerland was changed and quickly changed from 57 hours per week to a little over 48 hours with a 6-day week . [10]

In Switzerland, a week of 42 hours is common; Government employees in some cantons or employees in the MEM industry have a 40-hour week. The legally permissible maximum working time is 45 hours for employees in industrial companies as well as for office staff, technical and other employees including sales staff in large retail companies; for all other employees it is 50 hours. [11]

A popular initiative launched on October 14, 1971 an initiative to reduce the weekly working time to 40 hours and submitted it on November 20, 1973 with 54,227 signatures. The Federal Council rejected the request. In the Council of States debate , BR Ernst Brugger (1914–1998) described them as "formally and legally impossible and probably not feasible". The Social Democratic Party of Switzerland (“SP”) supported the request. [12] (turnout 45.15% 22 percent in favor) In a referendum held on 5 December 1976, the initiative suffered a major defeat. [13]

See also: History of Switzerland , industrial peace


See Matignon Treaties (1936) .

United States

The 40-hour week has been practiced in the United States since the early 1930s. [1]

Individual evidence

  1. a b 40-hour week / union - The time has come . In: Der Spiegel . Edition 19/1955. Hamburg May 4, 1955 ( online [accessed June 27, 2017]).
  2. ^ Sascha Kristin Futh: The DGB discovered the campaign. The struggle for Saturday off work , in: Work - Movement - History. Journal for Historical Studies , Issue II / 2016.
  3. Short chronicle 1945 to today - Over 60 years of collective bargaining movements, labor disputes and collective agreements - Hans Böckler Foundation - accessed on August 29, 2012
  4. 41-hour week in public service. Spiegel Online, April 3, 2004, accessed June 27, 2017 .
  5. ^ Matthias Schiermeyer: 41-hour week for the soldiers. Stuttgarter Zeitung, February 26, 2015, accessed on June 27, 2017 .
  6. ↑ The 42-hour week for civil servants will be abolished from 2012. In: Mercury. August 7, 2009, accessed November 27, 2019 .
  7. Cf. Anton Proksch: The tasks of social policy. In: Arbeit und Wirtschaft 1958, No. 12, p. 357.
  8. See Fritz Klenner, Brigitte Pellar: The Austrian trade union movement. From the beginning to 1999. Vienna 1999², p. 449.
  9. ^ Felix Münger: In 1918 Switzerland was on the brink of civil war. SRF Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen, October 23, 2017, accessed on December 5, 2018 .
  10. Daniel Lampart: Sharp decline in working hours after the general strike of 1918. Swiss Federation of Trade Unions, December 22, 2017 called on 5 December 2018 .
  11. Art. 9 Labor Law , accessed on March 6, 2017
  12. www.admin.ch
  13. www.admin.ch