Annual review of working conditions in the EU: 2004-2005
|Index | << Prev | Next >>|
The revision of the working time directive will remain a key topic on the agenda for 2005. In particular, more EU-wide comparative, in-depth research could create a basis for political decisions on the important issue of quality of work and employment. Such research could examine the impact of long working hours on health and safety, on work-life balance and on gender equality, as well as evaluating the long-term societal and economic effects.
Concrete measures to promote work-life balance are not envisaged in the proposal for the revision of the directive, despite previous announcements of the need for such approaches. The use of predominantly male terminology in the Commission’s proposal on definitions of on-call time is questionable. It may be symptomatic of a general neglect of active measures for promoting gender equality in the revision of the directive.
Another key issue is the European social partners’ framework agreement on work-related stress. This agreement recognises work-related stress as a joint concern and the urgent need to tackle the risks for workers. With regard to the increase of work-related stress factors causing long-term absenteeism or disability, this agreement can be an instrument to improve quality of work and keep workers in employment.
The agreement provides a general framework for analysing and dealing with work-related stress. It covers a broad range of causal factors, such as work organisation, working conditions and environment, and poor communication. Its implementation and the monitoring of progress require the engagement of the social partners at European and national level and, especially, the actors at company level.
Work organisation, with respect to improving adaptability, is one of the four main areas identified in the Commission’s Communication, as a background to the 2004 employment package, and as one of the key priority actions in the proposal for the A-C-T-I-O-N approach of the new social policy agenda. However, analysis of EU policy documents for the period under review does not identify a single text that deals specifically with a policy framework, or with concrete aspects of this important issue.
Extending the focus of research and policy action into areas, such as achieving work-life balance, disability management, anti-discrimination measures, or tackling the issue of the working poor can foster proactive concepts and prevention policies. The fact that such issues are receiving more attention seems to indicate a shift in perspective, away from a standard linear employment relationship, to include a wider interface between work and non-working life, and between activity and non-activity in the labour market.
Quality of work and employment is at the core of the European social model. The upcoming mid-term review of the Lisbon strategy and the review of the social policy agenda are a challenge for intensifying efforts to achieve more and better jobs, and for a more socially inclusive European Union.
Anni Weiler, AWWW GmbH ArbeitsWelt - Working World
|Index | << Prev | Next >>|