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IP/06/1604

Brussels, 22 November 2006

Commission launches open debate: Modernizing labour law to meet the challenges of the 21st century

The European Commission today launched a broad open public debate on reviewing labour law and adaptation to the modern world of work. The discussion paper will ask Member States, social partners and other stakeholder how labour law at EU and national level can help the job market become more flexible while maximizing security for workers (the 'flexicurity' approach). The consultation will run over a period of four months and its contributions will feed into in the upcoming Commission communication on flexicurity in June 2007.

New types of contractual arrangements outside of permanent, full-time work are increasingly common across the EU. Vladimír Špidla, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities said: "These more flexible arrangements are vital to confronting the effects of globalisation and demographic ageing in our labour markets. At the same time, it is essential that workers do not lose out in this process and that their call for greater security is heard. We want an open debate on how labour law could be adapted both at EU and national levels to reflect the new reality of work in Europe."

Rapid technological progress as well as globalisation have fundamentally changed European labour markets. Fixed term contracts, part-time work, on-call and zero-hour contracts, hiring through temporary employment agencies and freelance contracts have become an established feature of the European labour market, accounting for 25% of the workforce. At the same time, there is a growing gap between those looking for work, those in non-standard, sometimes precarious contractual arrangements on the one hand (so-called 'outsiders'), and those in permanent, full-time jobs on the other (the 'insiders').

Employment rules which are clear and easy to understand are as important for employers as they are for workers. Even though many aspects of labour law are dealt with at national level, a solid basis has been created at EU level to ensure a level playing field (such as legislation in areas like information and consultation of workers and working conditions).

The Green Paper debate will help to identify key challenges which have not yielded an adequate response yet. The consultation seeks views on 14 specific questions covering the much debated flexicurity approach; flexible and inclusive labour markets; employment transitions; a life-cycle approach to work; temporary agency work; working time; mobility of workers; and undeclared work.

Member States and Social Partners are invited to participate in the debate on the Green Paper, as well as anyone else with an interest in the issues at stake. To have a genuinely open debate, the Commission is calling on all parties to make their views known during the consultation period until 31 March 2007.
For the Green Paper online see:

http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/labour_law/docs/2006/green_paper_en.pdf
The consultation will remain open until 31 March 2007 and is available online at:

http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/labour_law/green_paper_en.htm


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