On Tuesday, the Chilean Congress approved the reduction of the weekly work week from 45 to 40 hours, making the country the Latin American country with the shortest working hours alongside Ecuador. In Brazil, the flight time specified by CLT is 44 hours.
The proposal, which was approved by the House of Representatives after unanimous approval by the Senate, gradually reduces the workday over a period of five years.
A year after its implementation, working hours will be reduced to 44 hours a week. After three years, the limit will be 42 hours and after five years it will be 40 hours, the working day recommended by the International Labor Organization (ILO).
Chilean law provides for the possibility of working for four days and resting for three (contrary to current legislation which requires five working days as a minimum) and considers the possibility of working up to a maximum of 5 hours of overtime per week (today, up to 12 hours of overtime is permitted). ).
Fabio Bertrano, director of the ILO’s regional office in Santiago, told BBC News Mundo, the BBC’s Spanish-language service, that the law includes a special regime for sectors that require overtime, such as mining or transport.
In these cases, employees will be able to work shifts of up to 52 hours per week, provided they later have more vacation days to compensate.
He explained, “The law is considering that you can achieve 40 hours a week by doing an average of four weeks. So if one week you work more, the important thing is that the average is 40.”
With this law, Chile became the second country in Latin America, after Ecuador, to agree to the working week recommended by the International Labor Organization.
On this map you can see what labor legislation says in the rest of the region.
With this approval, Chile joined most of the other 38 member states of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in that the 40-hour week applies.
The only exceptions are Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France and the Netherlands, where people work less than 40 hours, and Germany, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ireland, Israel, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Turkey, where they work more.
How much work is being done today in Chile?
But what the law says is one thing and what the reality says is another.
Although current regulations in Chile allow for 45-hour work weeks—a journey that shrank from 48 hours in 2005—ILO statistics show that average hours are much lower.
According to January 2023 data, employed people in Chile worked an average of 36.8 hours per week.
As you can see below, this is one of the lowest averages in the region.
Average working hours
In fact – as you have noted – the average working hours across Latin America are well below the limit set by law.
If we make a global comparison, the average weekly working hours in Latin America and the Caribbean (39.9 hours) are much lower than in Arab countries (44.6 hours), Asia and the Pacific (47.4 hours), East Asia (48.8 hours) and South Asia (49 hours).
Instead, it is longer than Western Europe (37.2 hours), North America (37.9 hours), and Africa (38.8 hours), according to 2019 data compiled by the International Labor Organization.
Does this mean that in Latin America, and in Chile in particular, little work is being done?
“No,” says Najati Ghosheh, an expert on working hours, who works at ILO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
“What is happening is that in some countries working time is only measured in the formal sector and not in the marginal sector, where there are more workers who only get hourly jobs, which reduces the average,” he explained to BBC Mundo.
According to Bertrano, the data provided by Chile includes the informal sector, which represents 27% of workers.
Of the total workforce, about 45% work 45 hours per week, but more than 40% work less than 35 hours.
Meanwhile, 11% work above the maximum allowed by law today, with shifts exceeding 49 hours per week.
Bertrano highlighted that the labor reform in Chile was achieved thanks to the fact that “a space has been opened for dialogue with the business sector” and there was a consensus in Chilean society on the importance of “making time for more family life and being able to enjoy public spaces”.
According to the International Labor Organization, which approved its agreement on 40 hours a day in 1935, work increases the number of work accidents and health problems, but it does not guarantee more productivity, as there is more fatigue.
Bertrano recommended that “Latin American legislation is lagging behind in terms of working hours and a review is necessary”.
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