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working day

(esp US), workday
Commerce any day of the week except Sunday, public holidays, and, in some cases, Saturday
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the time during a 24-hour period in which a worker is employed at an office, institution, or industrial enterprise. The workday is limited for both physical reasons, in order to provide time for workers to restore their strength, and moral reasons, in order to allow workers time to satisfy their cultural needs.

The social nature of the workday is determined by the production relations that predominate in a society. The workday includes necessary and surplus working time. Under capitalism this division in working time is characteristically antagonistic. The capitalist tries to increase surplus working time in order to extract more surplus value, which induces him to prolong the workday. The working class, on the other hand, tries to limit the workday to a definite normal duration. “In the history of capitalist production, the determination of what is a working day presents itself as the result of a struggle, a struggle between collective capital, that is, the class of capitalists, and collective labor, that is, the working class” (see K. Marx in K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch, 2nd ed., vol. 23, p. 246).

In the early stages of capitalism (the second half of the 14th to the end of the 17th century), when there was a shortage of workers, state authorities acted in the interests of capitalists, issuing special laws forcing workers to labor as many hours as possible. In the last third of the 18th century, with the emergence of large-scale machine production and the formation of the industrial labor reserve army, state laws prolonging the workday were no longer promulgated. The capitalist was able to prolong the workday to its extreme limits through economic coercion. The workday for children was more than 12 hours, and for adult workers even longer.

The workday became the object of a bitter class struggle, and a shortening of the workday was a demand put forth by the programs of workers’ parties. In 1866, upon the proposal made by K. Marx, a workers’ congress in the USA and the Congress of the First International advanced the demand for an eight-hour workday. An eight-hour limit on the workday was included in the program adopted by the RSDLP in 1903.

In the early 20th century ten- and 12-hour workdays were established in most developed capitalist countries. In Russia, as a result of the workers’ strike movement in 1897, a law was issued that set the maximum length of a workday at 11.5 hours. In factories in Moscow Province, for example, the average workday in 1908 was 9.5 hours for adult workers and 7.5 hours for minors. As a result of the October Revolution of 1917 and the establishment of an eight-hour workday in Soviet Russia and under pressure from the revolutionary movement, representatives of capitalist countries meeting in Washington, D.C., in 1919 concluded an international agreement instituting the eight-hour workday. However, many capitalist countries did not ratify this agreement, and it was violated even in those countries that had accepted it.

Under capitalism, the excessively long workday of some working people and the part-time employment or unemployment of others continue to be unsolved social problems. The shortening of the workday is accompanied by an intensification of labor and an increase in the exploitation of the working class. The workday is especially long in economically underdeveloped countries, where it is actually not regulated.

Under socialism, all working time, both necessary and surplus, is beneficial for the workers. Shortening the workday (the social labor norm) is a natural development in a socialist society and is aimed at improving working conditions and increasing the workers’ free time, which is used for the comprehensive development of the worker’s personality.

There are several chief prerequisites for systematically shortening the workday under conditions of full employment of the able-bodied population and a rise in the workers’ standard of living; these prerequisites include a steady increase in the productivity of social labor, the establishment of rational work schedules, the elimination of intrashift and full-day losses, as well as nonproductive expenditures of working time, and the improvement of services, which facilitates a more rational use of free time.

The Soviet government issued the decree On an Eight-hour Workday on Oct. 29 (Nov. 11), 1917. The socialist state strictly monitored compliance with this decree. The transition to a seven-hour workday was made in 1928–33. The five-day workweek was instituted in the early 1930’s (five workdays with the sixth day off).

In 1940, in connection with the start of World War II and the tense international situation, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR issued the decree On the Transition to an Eight-hour Workday and Seven-day Workweek. From 1956 to 1960 the workday was once again seven hours (six hours in some sectors); the workweek was six days. Later the transition to a five-day workweek with two days off was made. Thus, weekly working time remained unchanged (not more than 41 hours), with the work done in five days and not six.

A period of daily work that does not coincide with the workday established by law is called a work shift. Under the five-day workweek the length of a daily shift is determined by internal labor regulations or work shift schedules, which are approved by the administration with the consent of the factory, plant, or local trade union committees in compliance with the legally established workweek (art. 46 of the Labor Code of the RSFSR and the corresponding articles of the labor codes of other Union republics).

In the USSR the workday may be eight hours, eight hours and 12 minutes, or eight hours and 15 minutes long, while for work done under hazardous conditions the workday may be seven hours, seven hours and 12 minutes, or seven hours and 15 minutes long. The worker and the administration may agree to establish a partial workday; in this case, wages are proportional to the time worked.


Marx, K. Kapital, vol. 1, ch. 8. In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch, 2nd ed., vol. 23.
Engels, F. Polozhenie rabochego klassa ν Anglii. In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch, 2nd ed., vol. 2.
Lenin, V. I. “Novyi fabrichnyizakon.” Poln. sobr. sock, 5th ed., vol. 2.
Lenin, V. I. “Rabochii den’ na fabrikakh Moskovskoi gubernii.” Poln sobr. soch,. 5th ed., vol. 22.
Programma KPSS. Moscow, 1974.
Pazhitnov, K. L. Rabochii den’ν Rossii i SSSR. Kiev, 1930.
Maksimov, A. L. Perevod rabochikh i sluzhashchikh promyshlennykh predpriiatii SSSR na sokrashchennyi rabochii den’. Moscow, 1965.
Strumilin, S. G. “Rabochee vremia ν promyshlennosti SSSR.” In his book Problemy ekonomiki truda. Moscow, 1957.
Gintsburg, L. Ia. Regulirovanie rabochego vremeni ν SSSR. Moscow, 1966.
Prudenskii, G. A. Problemy rabochego i merabochego vremeni. Moscow, 1972.



(trudoden’), in the USSR prior to 1966, a measure of the work performed by individual kolkhoz members in their collective projects and a measure of the proportional share of income to which each member was entitled; it was a specific economic category engendered by the historical conditions of the development of kolkhozes.

The workday system of measuring labor was introduced on the kolkhozes in 1930 and 1931 because of the necessity of having a uniform measure by which to distribute payments, in accordance with the socialist principle of distribution according to work done. The number of workdays with which a kolkhoz member was credited was determined by the quantity and quality of his participation in the work of the kolkhoz. Qualitative evaluation of his work was made according to the complexity of the task pe-formed (a job done in one day could be worth from ½ to four workdays), with extra workdays being added or subtracted for the kolkhoz’s overfulfillment or underfulfillment of its plans. The workday system confirmed the socialist principle of distribution of payment according to work done and improved the discipline of kolkhoz members by introducing an obligatory minimum of workdays; it also raised the members’ interest in the improvement of the kolkhoz since the amount of their income depended on both the number of workdays they had worked and the amount of produce and money the kolkhoz could give them per workday.

For a long time, the workday was the only applicable method of accounting for work and distributing income among kolkhoz members, but as kolkhozes became economically stronger, conditions were created for the introduction of a monthly monetary payment for work. Beginning in 1954 and 1955, kolkhozes began paying monthly and sometimes quarterly advances for workdays. Since 1966 they have paid a guaranteed monthly wage without computing workdays.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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