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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: The 32 hour workweek could be a huge win for college students post-grad


The 40-hour workweek has been a standard for Americans for almost a century, with individuals working for eight hours a day, five days a week. However, Senator Bernie Sanders recently proposed legislation that would reduce the standard workweek in the U.S. to 32 hours — or to a four-day workweek — with no pay reduction.

This proposition could benefit all working Americans, but especially the new generation of individuals entering work, specifically future/recently graduated college students.

Sanders' legislation is based on the fact that many other countries, especially those in Europe, currently have a four-day workweek. In the countries with this policy, studies have shown that revenues for companies remain steady, but employees come to work less stressed and more focused.

A major reason for this stress reduction is the increased time away from work, which could be spent with friends and family, relaxing or participating in hobbies. 

Because of many Americans' rigorous work schedules, not many people have consistent hobbies. Just over 56% of Americans reported having hobbies as of 2023, compared to over 90% of individuals in European countries like Sweden and Denmark.

This percentage did grow during the COVID-19 pandemic because of increased time away from work, with 59 percent of Americans picking up a new hobby during the pandemic.

Having a consistent hobby to participate in is important because hobbies can relieve stress and provide a purpose for your free time. Many college students participate in niche hobbies or activities, including, at UNC specifically, chess, improv, dance and skating clubs. Often, these hobbies are lost as individuals enter full-time work post-grad because more time needs to be spent transitioning into a new, professional lifestyle.

The work-life balance is something students begin to learn in college — many of us balance spending time with loved ones, jobs and our hobbies while also doing coursework — and this balance is often disrupted once they enter the job field because all of their time must be spent on their career and its growth. 

A shortened workweek would increase the possibility for equity between an individual's work life and their personal life. College-age students could also reap other benefits from this legislation on a more professional level.

Some critics of Sanders’ bill argue that the 32-hour workweek would cause businesses to hire more employees, as a shortened work week would likely require companies to hire more individuals, so the business could continue to run throughout the whole week.

While some see this as a negative, this could be very beneficial for college individuals who will be entering the workforce within the coming years. This bill would increase the market for jobs college students seek post-grad, opening up more opportunities. It would also provide opportunities for more college students to have careers in their chosen fields.

Because of improving technology and an increased number of people searching for jobs, the competitiveness of the job market is growing. This is especially true for white-collar jobs that typically require a college degree, especially those in the arts — like journalism or advertising — and jobs in data science or pharmaceuticals.

For careers in journalism, there is an influx of individuals studying this field in college and not as many positions to fill as there are people, and this is true for many other career fields as well.

The proposition of a shortened 32-hour workweek by Bernie Sanders is not as radical of an idea as many Americans might view it. This policy is a standard that exists in many other countries where companies still experience high levels of productivity and high revenues.

If anything, the shortened workweek is a positive piece of legislation for upcoming college graduates who will make up the future working class.

@dthopinion |

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