Chile’s Congress on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a bill to reduce the work week from 45 to 40 hours over five years, a decision hailed by the left-wing government as a breakthrough for workers’ rights.
The measure passed the lower house 127-14, after being unanimously approved by the Senate three weeks ago. President Gabriel Boric, who took office in March 2022 after making the measure a campaign promise, was expected to sign it into law before May 1.
“Yes, changes can be made to advance workers’ rights,” Labor Minister Jeannette Jara said after the vote, which came six years after the law was initially presented.
It was the second time Chile has reduced its work week. The first was in 2005, when it was cut from 48 to 45 hours.
Ana Camayo, a 54-year-old manicurist who works in a department store, said “the law is fantastic for women over 30 who have children,” referring to herself and her colleagues. She said the extra free time will be spent with her family.
The reduced work week initially was proposed by communist lawmakers in 2017, but the proposal languished for years. New momentum came after about 200 roundtable sessions between workers and employers of large, medium and small companies and the government.
The law is intended to allow Chilean workers to be “more rested and happy,” said opposition lawmaker Emilia Schneider.
Once signed by Boric, the law will be applied in three stages: the first year, the work week will be reduced to 44 hours, the third year to 42, and the fifth year to 40. Employers will have the option of reducing work hours ahead of schedule.
Chile will join Ecuador, which already has a 40-hour work week.
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