Those among us who have lived in western Europe, North America or Australia may find the debate here about the pros and cons of a five-day working week archaic; were not those ideas sufficiently sifted over in the early decades of last century when labour unions were fighting for a 40-hour week? Not surprisingly, the arguments are the same: those for more leisure time believe it will strengthen families and improve workers' health; those against claim the economy will suffer because of a loss of productivity and competitiveness. Our survey of opinion leaders today confirms that those objecting to giving the people who are the lifeblood of our economy - the workers - some extra, well-earned, rest are in the minority. Those questioned believed - as at least 60 years of practice attests - that the extra leisure will do only good for the economy and the people who make it what it is. Those same nations that pioneered the idea are, after all, the world's most affluent. There is good reason why. As respondents to our poll pointed out, people given two whole days off work a week are most likely to use the occasion to spend money. Perhaps it is in restaurants, at the movies, shopping or any of countless other activities that keep the economy ticking over. Some will doubtless take the opportunity to go to the mainland or Macau, but it is doubtful whether they can afford to do this on a regular basis. Another reason why nations took to the idea of more rest for workers is that it boosts employment. Major banks here are embracing the five-day week while also wanting to extend service hours - which means they will have to employ more staff. But as Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen indicated in January when opening the debate by announcing a five-day working week for government employees, there is an even more important benefit: the health of Hong Kong. Overworked citizens make for an unhappy, unhealthy and unproductive city. A 2004 survey by the University of Hong Kong, Manpower Hong Kong and Community Business found that the average working week here was 55 hours; as a result, three-quarters of the 1,000 respondents said they suffered from stress and a lack of exercise. More than a quarter admitted to taking sick leave to recover from working long hours. Shifting from a 51/2 or six-day week to a five-day one will not automatically mean that the working day will get shorter; the same amount of work will have to be done. As some of those in western nations who won a 40-hour, five-day week all those years ago have found, competitiveness has meant that '9 to 5' is now just the name of a 1980s movie. Changing attitudes is a step-by-step process. When employers realise that better working hours make for increased productivity from happier, healthier workers, they will take up Mr Tsang's lead.