EC urges changes in work attitudes

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The Independent Online
THE EC Commission yesterday urged EC member states to take a new look at the problems of unemployment, arguing that the problem 'will not be solved by growth alone'.

'More public money or even faster economic growth cannot solve the unemployment problem, we have to change our attitudes and our social structures. Success will only come if we change our behaviour,' said the Social Affairs Commissioner, Padraig Flynn, presenting the annual Commission report on current employment trends.

In the wake of the Copenhagen summit last month when Jacques Delors, the EC President, presented his suggestions on getting Europe working again, EC member states and Commission departments have been urged to present their own analyses of the problems and solutions of European competitiveness. These will be incorporated in a new blueprint for growth at the end of the year. President Clinton's call for a global summit on unemployment, endorsed by Mr Flynn, has added new urgency.

Yesterday's contribution to this debate looks at the extent to which EC members have been moving together on labour costs, productivity, working hours, education and training. 'We have been surprised at the differences even between countries with similar levels of economic development,' said the commissioner, stressing that by pooling experiences members might find new solutions.

The statistics paint a picture of 12 very different working patterns, complicated further by regional differences and recent trends, such as the way in which jobs for women have outpaced jobs for men in the last decade.

The working week in Denmark and Germany, for example, is roughly the same - about 37 and 40 hours respectively - yet more Danes are in work.

Regional variations blur the picture still further: it costs more to make something in the greater Paris area, for example, than it does anywhere in Germany, bar Hamburg, and twice as much as in Brittany.

Meanwhile, the inflexibility of the EC labour market is also cause for concern. Fewer people are prepared to move in the 1990s than they were in the 1950s and 1980s. Between 1987 and 1990 only one in 500 people of working age moved abroad to work.

The theory, favoured by John Major, that social protection puts up the cost of labour and ties industry up in so much red tape that it ceases to be as productive as its US or Japanese competitors, is not borne out by the report. But the Commissioner stressed that a retreat to protectionist practices was not a solution either.

'This Community was never set up as a fortress Europe, it was conceived as a trading bloc and lives for trade,' he said.