World's 2nd-richest man suggests 3-day work week

July 21, 2014: 5:52 PM ET
What if you only worked 3 days a week?
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim is suggesting that workers shift to a three-day work week. The catch: He would require 11-hour work days and workers to stay on the job until age 70 or 75.

The Financial Times reported that in a speech at a conference in Paraguay, Slim advocated a radical change in the typical five-day work week.

"People are going to have to work for more years, until they are 70 or 75, and just work three days a week -- perhaps 11 hours a day," the paper quotes him as saying.

Related: The world's shortest work weeks

The paper said that workers at Telmex, the telecom company that has made him the world's second richest man by some estimates, now can retire before they are 50 years old in some cases.

But it reported that those eligible for such early retirement are given the option of a four-day work week at full pay upon reaching retirement age.

Related: The 10 hardest working countries

"With three work days a week, we would have more time to relax; for quality of life," Slim was quoted as saying. "Having four days [off] would be very important to generate new entertainment activities and other ways of being occupied."

Employees in Mexico work more hours than their counterparts in any other country, according to a study by the OECD, an international economic forum. The study shows workers there work 2,317 hours a year, or 44.6 hours a week, compared to an average of 1,798 hours a year in the United States.

For U.S. workers, the 40-hour, five-day work week became the standard in 1938. Despite gains in productivity and predictions of a significantly shorter work week that would follow, it has remained the standard for more than 75 years.

But while that has been the most common arrangement for full-time U.S. workers, 43% of employers offer at least some workers the option of a compressed work week, according to the the latest survey of the Society for Human Resource Management. That's up from 38% in the earlier survey six years ago.

The survey also found one in 10 offer the option to all or most of their employees. Smaller companies with fewer than 100 employees are more likely to offer the option than large employers with more than 1,000 workers. Those employers allow full-time workers the option to work longer days for part of the week in exchange for one short day or a day off each week or pay period.

The idea of working a compressed work week is popular with employees. A 2008 survey of workers by the Families and Work Institute found that 46% of those offered the option of a compressed week chose to work it at least some of the time. Of those who are not offered the option, 59% would like the option of a shorter work week.

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