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2004-06-28

Unlimited working hours 

The new spokesman of the industrialists lobby has argued [DE] for increasing weekly working hours, without adjusting financial compensation. He sees this as a competitition policy in the face of globalisation, in line with a recent agreement of Siemens Germany with the unions [DE]: 2000 jobs will not be shifted to Hungary for the next two years, because the German workers have agreed to work longer hours for the same pay - good luck to them after the two years are over.

The minister of labor and the economy, Bartenstein, has expressed support [DE]for the proposal, although with financial compensation (hourly wages should stay the same).

I see the economic rationale, but still I'm against this. I don't want to end up in a situation where it is legal to demand that employees work 50 or 60 hours per week, with or without extra pay. A father myself, I can see how this would squeeze out people who want to honor their private obligations from many jobs. The economic pressure in favour of a life-style as a single that rejects all private commitments and responsibilities is strong enough. I would like to see continental Europe as a region that takes a concious social choice against moving further in that direction. The Dutch did this with the Polder Model in the nineties. Why exactly has that become so obsolete, by the way, apart from the change of government? The Economist rode an attack in 2002, and many sources agree that voters just got bored and turned to populism. But hey, they come back sometimes, so let's not give up hope that easily.


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