Sri Lanka wants a four-day work week. But it’s not about making workers happy.

But in crisis-hit Sri Lanka, the concept has more to do with severe food and fuel shortages.

The South Asian nation, battling a deficit amid the worst economic crisis in decades, announced on Tuesday that public sector workers would be given Friday days off for the next three months without a pay cut to give them time to grow their own crops. .

“It seems appropriate to give government officials a one-day vacation … to participate in agricultural work in their backyard or elsewhere as a solution to expected food shortages,” the Department of Government Information said Tuesday.

It says the shorter week will also benefit workers affected by power outages and transport disruptions caused by food and gas shortages.

It is believed that there are up to 1 million public sector workers in the country. However, the four-day work week does not apply to “essential services” employees working in hospitals and ports, as well as employees in the energy and water sectors.

The government, which is in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout package this month, is also looking to encourage people to take jobs abroad so they can send money back.

It says public sector workers will be granted up to five years of unpaid leave “without prejudice” if they decide to take a job abroad.

Chaos and uncertainty

The island nation of 22 million is experiencing its worst financial and political crisis in decades. Public anger erupted in April when protests escalated into violence and threw the government into disarray. Several government officials, including the prime minister, have resigned.

For many Sri Lankans, daily life has been an endless cycle of chaos and uncertainty since the crisis began.

Snaking lines form across the country every day for essentials such as food and gas, and many shops have been forced to close because refrigerators, air conditioners or fans don’t work.

Naval officers guard a closed gas station in Colombo, Sri Lanka on June 12.

Soldiers are often stationed at gas stations to reassure frustrated customers who queue for hours in the scorching heat to fill up their tanks. It is reported that some customers even died while waiting.

Government critics are wondering how much the four-day workweek will change, saying that although public sector employees typically live far from Colombo, most of them use public transport for their commute.

They also say that most of them are relatively poor and do not own their own land, so they are unlikely to grow food for themselves.

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