For years, we read in the media that collectively agreed wages and protection against dismissal are needed in many sectors, that these things are innovative or even a necessity. Even today, we still have structures that have not changed in one hundred years. Concepts rooted in the industrial period influence our laws, our social insurance, the banking world and industry. Work-life balance, dedicating more time to one’s private life, family, hobbies, and the freedom to arrange one’s life as one wishes are topics that are touted in many places. The long-term health of human capital is by all means key to every national economy. That makes sense.
But does it really?
Flexible working hours are available in many places. This makes it possible to, for example, take the children to nursery, make health-related efforts, move and exercise. Are four-day weeks, such as those in Belgium, actually the future, or are we cementing structures that stifle innovation and flexibility? Can different systems and business sectors exist in parallel in a kind of harmony? Would it even be possible for employees to be able to switch more easily between the different worlds? In what way is this already reality, and how many more people are excluded?
More options – what does this mean?
On the one hand, we have more options. (Keywords: home office, video conferencing). This reality has advantages for many people. But on the other hand, these options are instruments used to bring people from all classes and professions to heel. The floodgates for less legal security are opening further.
For example, home working is limited in its compliance with tenancy and employment law. How long will it take for sensible legislative changes to be developed that are also tolerable for the tenant? Does the invisible hand of the market exist? For the last several years, we have instead been talking about the invisible hand of a few national banks and artificial market structures, and the cementing of the state economy under the guise of history and tradition. How much state interference do we want? Does an economy with market mechanisms exist? What does real economy mean these days? The attitude taken is “new market participants, no thanks.” This could endanger the four-day week.
Hire and Fire
We have long been talking about this principle in other economic sectors in Europe. Yet fast dismissals mean simpler structures, allowing individuals to gain a foothold elsewhere. The startup scene and new companies benefit significantly from the extensive experience and knowledge of proven specialists. It is a give and take, whereby areas of common ground and mutual interests are sought. That is not a new phenomenon, and there have never been larger opportunities. So, let us stay healthy and use this unique opportunity.
Recruitment leads to counter-recruitment. Reciprocity and sensible connections, and the integration of knowledge and specialists all require thoughtful actions. Interim and partial solutions are good, but without legal security and basic conditions they seldom work. The idea is not to reinvent the wheel but alter it in a sensible way. It is vital for us all to consider our health, as otherwise the costs for the young generations, in particular, will be astronomical, and the belief in social organisations and financial systems could continue to dwindle. How do we make improvements to the real economy and promote genuine innovation? “It seems that incentive schemes with a determined focus on people’s health are likely to win the race.”
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