Innovating European Labour Markets

Innovating European Labour Markets

Dynamics and Perspectives 

Edited by Peter Ester, Ruud Muffels, Joop Schippers and Ton Wilthagen

This book examines innovative theoretical perspectives and novel labour market policy responses to Europe’s changing work demands, employment careers and life courses. It presents creative ideas and recommendations for flexicurity policies at various levels and in different social and economic contexts. The driving factors determining the performance of dissimilar pathways in Europe are identified in regard to their impact on the flexibility/security nexus. Key issues in the current European policy debate are addressed, including how innovative policies are designed in the areas of working time, education, work–life balance, employment relations, retirement and migration, how they are put into practice and what determines their level of success.

Chapter 7: Working Time Flexibility Across Europe

Marcel Kerkhofs, Heejung Chung and Peter Ester

Subjects: economics and finance, labour economics, social policy and sociology, labour policy


Marcel Kerkhofs, Heejung Chung and Peter Ester 7.1 INTRODUCTION The need for more flexibility is a key notion in the current policy debate on the present and future of the European economy and labour market. Europe, so the European Commission holds, has to be less rigid in terms of its institutions, regulations, culture and policies in effectively addressing the radical impacts of accelerated processes of globalisation, increased competition, and rapid changes in the demand and supply dynamics (European Commission, 2005).1 These new challenges will deeply affect European employer–employee relationships, if only because flexibility directly impacts existing working time regimes and practices as well as the forms of contracts. Both employers and employees need to take their share of flexibility challenges. In the words of the European Employment Taskforce (2003, p. 27): ‘Flexibility is not just in the interest of employers. Modern workers also have a need for flexible working arrangements and modern work organisations to help them combine work and care, to make time for education and to respond to their personal preferences and lifestyles’. This becomes clear if one looks at flexibility arrangements that are presently in vogue: companies aim to gain a competitive edge by making production time and opening hours more flexible, for example by means of non-standard working times, overtime and flex-contracts, whereas workers want more flexibility of their working time through arrangements such as flexitime, parttime work and various leave schemes. Although there is a substantive scholarly literature on flexibilisation and a growing...

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