Letter: How to bring back jobs in Europe

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The Independent Online
Sir: Today's leading article on Europe ('Europe must face reality', 22 June) surprised me with its lack of imagination and subtle parroting of the hackneyed, unproven theory that cutting wages and conditions on the UK model would improve Europe's competitiveness.

Britain's shabby economy - with 23 per cent of its workforce in flexible, precarious and often low- paid work, no minimum wage, still large inequalities between women and men, and above European Community average unit labour costs - is not a successful model. Its by-products are a large trade imbalance, high unemployment and a quarter of all the EC's poor living in Britain.

EC leaders should jointly agree both commission and European Parliament proposals to promote sustainable economic growth and social justice. This requires a greater co-ordination of economic policies; monetary stability; joint public/private investment (a joint EC environmental clean-up programme for Europe's new democracies is an obvious example of mutual benefit); more joint R & D and improved lifetime education and training, all within the framework of a 'social chapter'. This would ensure a stable business climate, product innovation, quality production and job creation.

Emulating Czech or Chinese wage rates is no way forward for Europe or the world economy. Impoverishing potential customers is no recipe for economic or social success.

In future, all international trade agreements should include a 'social clause' that sets a timetable for each country's adoption and implementation of basic International Labour Organisation standards on (inter alia) wages, conditions, equal treatment and child labour. Only then will we begin to compete on a fairer and more level playing field. Let Japan take a lead, for example, and emulate European standards on working hours and wages, thus sharing more of the fruits of its wealth with its people.

Moving in this direction improves productivity, creates jobs and enhances people's lives though more leisure and greater purchasing power. Is this not, in part, what our societies should be aiming for, as opposed to the poverty and inequality of the sweatshop society?

Yours sincerely,

CAROLE TONGUE

MEP for London South East

(Lab)

European Parliament

Strasbourg

22 June

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