EU, 48-hour working week, fun, fun, fun in UK

After living the last five years in Holland, where EU hardly ever is questioned, I find it great to be back in a country where most people seem to have a healthy level of scepticism to what happens in Brussels.

The latest thing here in the UK is the attempt to remove the opt-out scheme John Major negotiated for the 48-hour working week. Besides labelling EU the “nanny super state” they do bring up some quite good arguments against removing it. The flexible labour market being the strongest, I think. Personally I find it interesting that instead of addressing the rigid local markets in France (touted the source of all evil in EU here :) and Germany they instead try to impose the same rules on the rest of the member countries. (According to a French colleague I have this is the strategy France has followed all along in EU.) The British are also worried about the costs of enforcement, something that the other EU countries don’t seem to mind–could it be because they don’t enforce it? (I have to admit I’ve never heard anything about enforcement of this when I was working in Sweden or Holland.)

Apparently this is introduced by unionists. They think that by removing the opt-out it will increase the health and well-being of the British. What they seem to miss is the trends you find in the EU countries. As always people will find ways around this. In all countries where it’s hard to fire people you can see an increase in consultants. It makes more economic sense to hire an expensive consultant and know for sure that he can be let go, rather than hiring someone permanently and pay through the nose when you have to bring out the axe. Talk about a decrease in job security! Forcing a 48-hour week upon the British whould probably have a similar effect, since self-employed people are exempt we would see a dramatic increase in self-employed consultants. Job security would take another hit!

Well, there is some hope since the new member states don’t seem too keen on creating a rigid labour market making it harder for them to catch upwith the older members.

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