Moves to improve labour market flexibility create unstable working conditions

European society is pushing people into unstable work conditions as part of its quest for labour market flexibility, according to the EU’s top employment official.

The EU must instead find ways to enable workers to shift to jobs with more stable conditions, EU social affairs commissioner Vladimir Spidla said in an interview with EUobserver news service.

Spidla is currently preparing a Green Paper on EU labour law – to be published in mid-November. It will evaluate recent developments in European labour law and also set the tone for further discussions about future changes, Spidla said.

Spidla said the biggest problem that needs to be tackled is the tendency towards dual labour markets emerging in Europe.

“We have a labour market of people who are employed under normal working terms, with some social security, health and safety and other standard provisions. And then we have a group of workers in indecent conditions without such basic security provisions,” he said.

Europe is even encouraging this tendency as it is viewed as good for flexibility of the labour market, he added.

Retirement ages across Europe will have to be raised to deal with an ageing population, he said. Opposition from the trade unions to these changes is wrong, according to Spidla. “Those who think that the status quo is a way to success in future are wrong. And they are undermining Europe’s future social security,” he said.

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