Laws and regulations related to labor time of this country tend to be designed around the concept that you must have as much free time as the time you work and where possible this cycle must alternate. Being a week the measure of labor schedule, the most common implementation is alternate a week of work with a week free.

Jobs like some medical disciplines have a different schedule, but usually the principle mentioned above is honored in a way or another. Another example: miners mining in a location far away from cities, need to be hired full-time by a very long period of time, the breaks they need to take during that period, to maintain their good health, are still considered job time. Then the company/employer needs to compensate them in some way that complies with the mentioned principle.

If a company/employer doesn't honor this principle, it will sooner or later call the authorities attention. If a company/employer needs, or just wants, to employ people without honoring this principle, legal ways exist, but they need to have some very well crafted excuse as they will have to answer some questions. Many companies got the required permissions at first, but then, after some time, they were asked to go back to a "normal" schedule.

No need to say, but companies need, probably, twice as people as they would need in real life, to function the same time.

Another hard to solve problem, is that in real life many jobs pay per hours worked, and absences, specially unjustified absences, mean a lower income for the employer. So, our fantasy country's citizens need a very good wage, that allows them to survive that free week without reaching dangerous stress levels (I'm aiming for happy citizens), or either for the free week to be payed but this plays again the viability of the business.

Psychological aspects: like "if people feel like their physical and mental health allow them to do more work, they may want to work more and increase incomes". Making this system a bit difficult to justify. This may be a topic for another question.

Update: sorry, I used week of rest in place of week of free time. I noticed that "rest" sound like the citizen spend all the time sleeping while I actually refer to have free time.

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    $\begingroup$ @user535733 Why should paychecks be smaller? Pay people the same, but for less time. That's how the salary system works. Paying people directly for their labour is just the factory system. Surely we can do better than that. Now they will have more time to spend it. This will improve the economy overall, successfully. This will work better than your low pay model. $\endgroup$ – a4android Mar 24 '17 at 5:23
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    $\begingroup$ Something like is done with Fly-In-Fly-Out (FIFO) workers in mining. Except they done four weeks on, four weeks off typically. The working week of seven days works well because people can usually do six days straight working, then to rest for one. Modern society has stretched this to five & two. Ship workers & naval personnel do tours of duty. Working in shifts, with occasional breaks of shore leave. Humans can work in many types of labour schedules. $\endgroup$ – a4android Mar 24 '17 at 5:28
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    $\begingroup$ "The type of society determines resource allocation", This is real life. Usually everybody is so mired in their own society's cultural perspective that they don't see this simple fact. Finding a believable chain of choices to create such a society is a WB SE question in its own right. $\endgroup$ – a4android Mar 25 '17 at 3:33
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    $\begingroup$ @user535733 Yes that's what I said. Increased productivity can pay for reduced hours. An economy is not all material production and consumption. It is about value adding too. Modern economies are service economies where conventional ideas of production are irrelevant. $\endgroup$ – a4android Mar 25 '17 at 3:37
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    $\begingroup$ You are all talking about productivity and all, completely ignoring elephant in the room. It's owners who pocket the most. Regulate CEO and shareholder income and you will go a long way. Those guys get most of the money without actually doing any work. Already owning money, is not work, and yet somehow it "entitles" them to biggest slice. Limit maximum income, rent seeking and set high taxes of the rich. This will lead to less inequality and better society. $\endgroup$ – M i ech Mar 25 '17 at 4:12

You can make anything work, especially if there are no competing countries with more efficient approaches to work. 50/50 is pretty luxurious. That being said, the tricky part will be jobs that call for continuity. If a job can't just stop at the end of one week and pick up a week later, it has to be handed off. Handoffs are expensive, and dangerous.

The medical industry found that out. A few years back I saw an interesting study on nursing. Nurses typically work 12 hour shifts. There was great interest in reducing the number of fatigue related mistakes, so a few hospitals tried switching to 8 hour shifts. The result? The nurses made more mistakes than they did when they were sleep deprived. A dive into the data showed that the vast majority of issues arose during a shift change, where one nurse must somehow convey everything the other nurse needs to know. With 12 hour shifts, there are 2 shift changes every day. With 8 hour shifts, there are 3. It turned out that increasing the number of shift changes actually had a greater negative impact than the benefits of having more rested nurses!

Some businesses are relatively immune to this. However, businesses which depend on continuity would be heavily impacted by this approach. The result would likely be that this country is very poor at those particular businesses, relying on their 40 hour work week neighbors to pick up the slack. They'd focus on jobs which are more suited for this disconnected schedule.

  • $\begingroup$ Challenging, I know. Arguing dependency of continuity, I think, would get you the required permissions. I made an edit to question title and body but this edit doesn't invalidate your answer. $\endgroup$ – Hatoru Hansou Mar 24 '17 at 4:54
  • $\begingroup$ Retaking the topic of continuity. There are jobs, and nurses is a very good example, that just aren't viable with constant interruptions. Going further, we can say the same as some projects one have in life, like... raising your children, working on improving your house, etc. That can't be solved only by throwing more money at it. Can this be used as an argument in favor of the 50/50 system? And for it to be successful incorporated in certain fantasy country culture? $\endgroup$ – Hatoru Hansou Mar 26 '17 at 1:43
  • $\begingroup$ Also, after reading all the comments, productivity and business viability doesn't appear anymore as an unsolvable problem. I need to work on the details of course. $\endgroup$ – Hatoru Hansou Mar 26 '17 at 1:46
  • $\begingroup$ I think the big unknown woudl be competition from other nations. That one isn't so clear. On one hand, it seems natural that a culture that works harder should be able to dominate others. On the other hand, there seems to be some harder to see effects that mitigate that. I do know that "primitive" cultures are known to work half the time and do recreational activities half the time, so that gets close to your system. Of course, those cultures are also not competing with industrialized nations. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon - Reinstate Monica Mar 26 '17 at 2:05
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    $\begingroup$ The argument I've made in the past is that not everything is monetizable. Social structures, for instance, can be tremendously powerful, and yet it is impossible to assign a price tag to them. It is a fun topic to explore. It forces us to turn what we're told about our role in society on its head. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon - Reinstate Monica Mar 26 '17 at 3:03

As Cort Ammon points out in his excellent answer, there may be roles in the economy that cannot be acceptably performed with such a law in place. This will be handled in one of two ways: Either that role becomes an exception, or the negative impacts become a plot element.

There is a bigger issue of whether the productivity of labor is sufficient with such a policy in place. If that productivity isn't high enough, the problems it will cause cannot and will not be solved by paying everybody a higher hourly wage, but that won't stop a government that thinks it can rewrite the laws of economics to suit its whims from trying. Doubling the amount of money, while leaving the amount of actual consumer goods the same, will only double the price of those consumer goods; the number of people who are doing without these consumer goods will remain the same.

What is required for this system to work is that with the populace limited to working only 26 weeks out of each years, all of the consumer goods desired will still be produced. There is only so much that people can do in the 130 days per year they are allowed to work. If that is not enough to meet their needs and desires-so-strong-they-are-taken-as-needs, there will be problems.

If the government remains jack-ass stubborn about this policy (and governments are nothing if not jack-ass stubborn about policies with which they are enamored), the people will try to get around the law:

  • Some people will take a second job whose work schedule alternates with their other job. If this is illegal, there will be a black market in fake identities so that a person can work one job under one name and another job under another name, with separate bank accounts, etc.
  • People will produce whatever quantities of desired goods whose legal production is insufficient, forming a black market in these goods.
  • There will be a slight uptick in prostitution.
  • And so on.
  • $\begingroup$ Why prostitution? Do you mean that there will be more clients because people have more free time or that the workers for that industry will be working on it "illegally" during their free week? I won't comment about these people opinion on prostitution as that is not relevant to this question. $\endgroup$ – Hatoru Hansou Mar 27 '17 at 19:36

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