Longer hours required to make Europe more competitive

Marc Rodrigues cuito61 at onebox.com
Thu Aug 8 13:52:27 MDT 2002


I was hoping to analyze and deconstruct this article posted by Lou, as
it contains several points which are important.  Sorry to be so simplistic.
 I hope somebody more knowledgeable than me will help me out with this.

Recently I was speaking with a cousin of mine in Portugal who mentioned
that unemployment there is around 26%.  Could this be an accurate figure,
and if so, is the situation similar across western europe?


>Without realizing it, Europe has embarked on an unusual experiment >inan
era of globalization: trying to become more competitive while >working
less.

What exactly is meant here by "competitive?" is it the ability to export
cheap goods?  to have an economy that grows at the same or similar rate
as the U.S> economy?  How does being "competitive" relate to social and
economic inequality, if at all?


>Europe is on track to grow by about 1% in the first half of the year--

>well below the U.S.'s 3% rate -- with nearly all the growth coming from
>exports. U.S. growth per capita, a common measure of standard of >living,
>grew at twice the rate of Europe's largest economies in the 1990s.

Again, what exactly does this "growth" refer to?  I'm willing to venture
here that "standard of living" is some generic measurement that doesn't
take into account inequality(?)


>The U.S. enjoys a deeper pool of investment
>capital, mobile workers, a developed entrepreneurial culture

"Mobile workers" here refers to what? unskilled laborers and service
sector employees who bounce from one meaningless, low-wage job to another?


>But then came the oil shocks of the 1970s, when skyrocketing energy
>prices
>brought on inflation and recession. The different responses of the >U.S.and

>Europe go a long way in explaining their economic performances of the
>succeeding decades. While U.S. companies slashed workers and >restructured,
>Europe tried to cushion the blow by boosting government spending, >expanding
>unemployment benefits and enacting stricter laws against firing.

Let me see if I'm getting the gist of this paragraph (and article):
"because the u.s. lags far behind in europe in worker's rights, it has
a more productive economy."


>In the three decades since, the U.S. created 50 million newjobs,
>five times the number generated in Europe, according to figures

Can someone analyze this figure a little, especially in terms of what
types of jobs were created, were they union jobs for the most part, did
they require much education, etc.


>Caterpillar Inc., the U.S. maker of heavy machinery [which Israeli forces
use to demolish Palestinian villages and refugee camps]

>"If our only competition and customers were in France it would not be
>an
>issue," says Laurant Rannaz, head of human resources for Caterpillarin

>France. "But they come from around the world."

Hmmm... globalization?  I haven't thought of that angle until I read
this last sentence.  Could the push for longer hours and more productivity
in europe be in response to the productiviy and profit coming out of
exploited labor in the third world (and, relatively speaking, in the
u.s.)?  what is the connection?


>"This is not the life I had in mind," she says.

Yes, but perhaps having some time off to spend with their families is
the life that your workers had in mind.


>For the bigger companies, globalization affords an escape hatch >fromthe

>restrictions at home. Even though Europe boasts high-skilled, well->trained
>and educated workers, companies say the shorter work hours make the
>higher
>costs even harder to justify. French car maker PSA Peugeot Citroen,
for
>example, more than doubled the size of its work force outside France
to
>68,800 in the last decade, while its domestic work force shrunk by >4,000.

Bingo.  My question is, whats the point of the article and all the complaining
if they could just move their production to the third world?


>Companies won't hire at home, even if demand is strong and existing
>workers
>are stretched... The
>company is in the midst of moving various divisions to India and the
>Philippines, where employees are cheaper and work longer.
>"Hiring is the last thing you do" in Germany, says Mr. Ammer.

So I guess this si what is contributing to the high unemployment... question
is, if and when it leads to worker unrest, will the connection be made
to globalization and so-called free trade, or will tird world workers
become the scapegoat?


>Stories such as these help explain why Europe hasn't become as >attractive
a
>home for foreign investment as the U.S.

Of course, eastern europe has become a very attractive home for foreign
capital because labor standards are much weaker, just like in the u.s.,
a fact left out of this paragraph which goes to explain this phenomenon.


>Priorities and values have shifted. Family, having a boyfriend or
>girlfriend and leisure have all grown in importance among Italians >aged
15  to 24 during the last 20 years, according to a recent survey

Sound like perfectly normal human beings to me.

>Many Europeans don't have their first work experience until their >late20s.

>Similar surveys show that holding a job remains the top priority for
>Americans, who typically start work in regular, if part-time, jobs as
>teenagers.

Of course, in europe there are public universities which provide quality
education, not to mention universal health coverage and reasonable shelter
at a reasonable price.  here in the u.s., myself and countless people
i know have had to work from a young age to pay our own way through school,
to help our parents who are overwhelmed with medical bills, rent, etc.
 another point the article neglects to mention, and a telling sign of
the u.s. system.


>Spending so much time working, Mr. Dolado argues, means less time with
>family, less social cohesion and arguably more fertile ground for >crime,a

>much bigger problem in America than in Europe. Plus, while more >Americans
>have jobs, many of these pay less than what jobless Europeans get on
>welfare.

Good points.

> And federal campaign season in Germany has prompted
>debate on loosening Germany's rigid labor market.

i.e., smash Germany's strong labor movement

>Disaffected, jobless young people were pivotal in the recent
>removal of the left-center French government. Rising unemployment >maydo

>the same in Germany's federal elections in September.

Interesting analysis, anyone know how accurate it is?  I figured it was
the middle class  and bourgeois xenophobes who were largely responsible
for this.

I hope this article sparks some discussion on the list.


---
Marc Rodrigues
Voicemail/Fax: 866.206.9067 x4217
SFS: http://qcsfs.tripod.com

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