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2004-07-01

Competition on pay vs competition on working time 

Beautiful summer weather outside, just the right day to return to that unpleasant question of working time regulation. I do remember having written here (and here) that economic competition is good, that motivated workers from poorer countries should be allowed to enter the local labor market etc. For decent jobs, I know that there are many who would be willing to take that job and work 60 or 70 hours a week on it for the same pay that the current job-holder gets for 45.

I said that international competition on salaries is a fact to live with in a globalised economy, and should therefore be accepted and taken as a chance. But now I'm saying that competition on readiness to work long and extra-long hours is not ok. A self-serving inconsistency?

If the electorate in a low-pay country chose that national working times should be 60 hours, I wouldn't complain. But if deregulation and an open labor market would lead to an increase of minimum expected working times in Austria to 60 hours, then I would object.

Maybe an argument should be construed like this: Pay is a strictly economic dimension, beyond basic survival it only determines certain types of discretionary spending, which itself is a purely economic subject matter and should be treated as such. Time for private activities however is something that transcends the realm of the economic, it has a social and existential importance. And therefore it could be consistent with a basically economically liberal perspective to protect private time on the level of a local social choice, which immigrants would have to adopt.


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