Industry doesn’t need to get worried about the Working Time Directive
Before it all ended so badly, the Prime Minister used to boast that part of the price he would demand for agreeing to a revision of the Lisbon Treaty was a relaxation of the Working Time Directive. This has become something of a totem for de-regulationists but you have to ask yourself: why?
Thursday’s report on Hours Worked in the Labour Market showed that average hours worked in Britain have been coming down in good times and bad. Of course, the picture is complicated by the rise in the proportion of the workforce in part-time work and by the declining share of the workforce in manufacturing (there is a very good video from the Office for National Statistics that explains this.) But if you strip out those complications by just looking at the figures for full-time workers and look at manufacturing, services and construction separately, you can still see this pattern:
Average hours for full-time workers have been coming down in good times and bad, surely showing that industry doesn’t need the freedom to exploit workers. But workers do still need protection from exploitation: average hours may be coming down but British full-time workers still have the third-longest working week in the EU (4.27 hours, compared with an EU average of 41.6) and more than five million British workers do unpaid overtime every year.
A final thought: the data published on Thursday show that full-time workers work longer hours than Brits in only two countries – one is Austria, the other is Greece, which has the longest hours in the EU. This rather undermines the silly jokes about lazy Greeks causing the Euro-crisis, doesn’t it?