Dynamics and Perspectives
Edited by Peter Ester, Ruud Muffels, Joop Schippers and Ton Wilthagen
7. Working Time Flexibility across Europe 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...
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