The Cliché of Working Longer Hours in Spain

President of the Eurogroup –the inexperienced Dutch minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem,- paid a visit to Madrid to start a dialogue with Madrid and help with “national optimism.” Shortly, the country will have to decide about the €100 billion credit facility for restructuring the Spanish cajas-banks. However, the government doesn’t consider necessary to renew such facilities.

In Brussels, European authorities agree with Spain, but they also point that any additional capital requirements would fall into the government’s hands. Dijsselbloem claimed that the so-called “Spanish issue” goes well in the Eurogroup, although it “has a long way to go yet” –more labour reform for instance, although “the trend is the correct one.”

For PM Rajoy, Dijsselbloem’s speech reinforces the communication strategy about the end of recession and the beginning of recovery as the key point. To sum up: Spain improves, new investors are coming and soon there will be more employment.

During question time, the Dutch minister turned to the annoying stereotype about the need of “working harder and longer.” If only unemployed people could work! Who offers a job? It sounds brave saying “more and better,” but it makes no sense without going into details, without specifying.

The key is not working harder but creating the possibility of working. And the president of the Eurogroup didn’t say a word about this fact.

A few days ago, the chief economist of the Spanish Confederation of Employers’ Organisations (CEOE in its Spanish initials) suggested extending the retirement age to 70 years old instead of 65. I suspect that the chiefs of staff in those companies affiliated to employer associations screamed blue murder… three more years for people who keep gathering more and more benefits and rights doesn’t seem like the best choice to gain competitiveness.

We go from cliché to cliché. It would be convenient that, before (or even after) making witty proposals, they did their sums regarding the consequences of each project. It seems clear that working harder and longer is just a nonsense.

About the Author

Fernando Gonzalez Urbaneja
Over 30 years working in economic journalism. Fernando was founder and chief-editor at El País, general editor at the business daily Cinco Días, and now teaches at Universidad Carlos III. He's been president of the Madrid Press Association and the Spanish Federation of Press Associations. He's also member of the Spanish press complaints commission.

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