Younger Flemish workers against increased working hours

Younger Flemish workers against increased working hours
Credit: Jonas Hamers/Belga.

A recent survey by Flemish media outlet Het Nieuwsblad revealed that 33% of Flemish workers in their twenties are unwilling to work more than 30 hours per week. While this has led to the younger generation being labelled as work-shy, some argue that it shows an improvement in work-life balance over prior generations.

On Tuesday, Het Nieuwsblad unveiled the findings of a survey they had conducted among Flemish workers in their twenties. Their aim was to find out what their preferences were in terms of working hours.

The key findings showed that the region's youth were less willing to work longer hours than previous generations. For instance, a third of respondents do not desire to work more than 30 hours a week — eight fewer than the Belgian legal working week.

Furthermore, only half of them were willing to work overtime — and only if this meant receiving extra pay — with only nine percent of respondents willing to work over 40 hours a week.

While this may lead some to label the younger generation as 'lazy,' it is instead indicative of a healthier work-life balance, according to Stijn Baert, a labour economics professor at UGent.

To bat these negative perceptions away, Baert explained that, in reality, over half of Flemish workers in their twenties do work more than 40 hours per week. In spite of this, "this generation now knows that you have to embed your work life into your personal life, rather than the other way around."

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This is due to them being aware of the risk of burnout as another survey recently showed that cases of burnout in Belgium have doubled in the past five years.

Furthermore, Baert indicated that "the previous generations were somewhat encumbered by the idea of hard work, of service and of common good, while the current generation is making more balanced choices."

As a result, he is glad to see that the Flemish youth "is thinking about what makes them happy and letting their work life be a component in that."

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