Usually with a 24-hour economy is meant that companies work day and night. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Large factories were the first to ‘run through’ day and night. Employees work in shifts of, for example, 8 hours. This creates three ‘shifts’ whereby an employee has a morning, afternoon or night shift.

For companies in the primary sector (such as natural gas and iron ore mining) and the secondary sector (such as steel factories, printers of morning papers and electricity companies), a 24-hour economy is not new. And also bakers, artists, catering entrepreneurs and dairy farmers are known to have different working hours than people with a regular office job. The 24-hour economy already existed for these industries. Nevertheless, the last few decades have seen a major shift in the opening hours of companies working in the tertiary sector. Shops are increasingly open in the evenings and also on Sundays. Many companies even feel compelled because they can not stay behind with their competitors. The rise of online stores has also forced shopkeepers to use wider opening hours.

The term 24-hour economy was best known for the somewhat controversial extension of the shopping hours law of 1996, which made it possible for retailers to stay until 22:00 in the evening. and open twelve times a year on ‘shopping Sunday’. Especially Christian political parties are opposed to this decision because of the Sunday rest. The adaptation of the law is regarded by opponents as a next step towards a society where everything revolves around consuming and there is no room for rest and reflection.

The term 24-hour economy can relate to the 24-hour production of factories, but also to stores that are open longer and more often. This allows customers to satisfy their needs at any time. This means that both economies and consumers have created an economy that is becoming less and less attracted by the biological clock. For example, look at a company like When a customer in the evening before 10.30 pm. order a product, it is often delivered home the next day. At night, the products are prepared for shipping, so that a transport company starts driving early in the morning. Another example is that supermarkets such as Jumbo and Albert Heijn are open all day long in the big cities at Easter and Christmas.

For producers, production systems have been operating for 24 hours. Whether the 24-hour economy exists for customers is the question. Companies still have closing times and contact after office hours usually leads to an answering machine. Yet there are companies that want or need to be accessible at all times. An example is the “follow the sun” principle whereby a multinational distributes its helpdesk or shared service center across different continents. When the sun sets in Asia, the help desk in America takes over the work. The company is available 24 hours a day for orders and inquiries from all over the world.


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