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United Arab Emirates cuts work week to 4.5 days to improve work-life balance and competitiveness

This picture taken on May 9, 2021 shows a view of the Dubai city skyline as seen from the Burj Khalifa
This picture taken on May 9, 2021 shows a view of the Dubai city skyline as seen from the Burj Khalifa   -   Copyright  GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP
By Pascale Davies

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is cutting its working week to four-and-half days and moving its weekend from Friday-Saturday to Saturday-Sunday, officials announced on Tuesday.

The government said it would “boost productivity and improve work-life balance” as the country aims to improve its economic competitiveness.

From January 1, 2022, the weekend will start at 12 pm local time on Friday and run until Sunday night. The current weekend runs from Thursday night to Saturday night.

The new working day will be 7.30 am to 3.30 pm Monday to Thursday, and 7.30 am to 12 pm Friday.

The changes mean the UAE will become the only Gulf state not to have a Friday-Saturday weekend, which is the case in other Muslim-majority countries so that Friday prayers can be observed.

Under the new timetable, Friday prayers at mosques will be held after 1.15pm all year round.

The government said it would "ensure smooth financial, trade and economic transactions with countries that follow a Saturday-Sunday weekend, facilitating stronger international business links and opportunities for thousands of UAE-based and multinational companies".

A trial of a four-day work week conducted in Iceland between 2015 and 2019 showed employee productivity remained the same or improved.

Trials in Japan and New Zealand also showed employee wellbeing improved as well as productivity.

Ireland, Scotland, Spain and Sweden have announced pilot four-day work week schemes.