The Coronavirus Crisis
May 21, 20204:03 PM ET
Experts say New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s Facebook Live appearances and reassuring messages have led to an 80% approval rating. Mark Mitchell/AP
toggle captionMark Mitchell/AP
Experts say New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s Facebook Live appearances and reassuring messages have led to an 80% approval rating.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has floated the idea of a four-day workweek to encourage domestic travel in the wake of the country’s coronavirus lockdown.
Ardern raised the potential of a shortened workweek and more flexibility around leave in the workplace after meeting with local officials and tourism operators in the North Island-city of Rotorua.
“How can we support New Zealanders to make the most of traveling around the country?” the prime minister said in a Facebook Live video. “Some have been saying, ‘Well, if they had a bit more flexibility in terms of their travel and their leave they might be ought to do that.’ I’ve heard lots of people suggesting we should have a four-day week.”
The decision on whether to institute a shorter workweek is an individual one between employer and employee, according to Ardern. But she encouraged businesses to think about this option “because it certainly would help tourism all around the country.”
The prime minister also pointed to the benefits of working from home, which the coronavirus crisis has shown can drive up productivity.
Last week, the government announced a NZ400 million (about $245 million) Tourism Recovery Fund as part of its broader budget to support the hard-hit industry.
New Zealand’s tourism sector contributed more than NZ$16 billion ($9.8 billion) to the country’s gross domestic product for the year ending in March 2019, according to Tourism New Zealand. That’s 5.8% of total GDP.
The industry also employs nearly 230,000 Kiwis.
The island country with a population of nearly 5 million allowed most businesses to reopen last Thursday after three days without any new COVID-19 cases.
New Zealand received global praise for its swift response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which consisted of aggressive lockdown measures and travel bans paired with widespread testing and contact tracing.
On April 27, Ardern declared that the country has “won [the] battle” against widespread COVID-19 community transmission. The country’s health ministry reported 1,153 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Thursday. The death toll stands at 21.