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In its second Europe-wide survey of companies the European Foundation for the Improvement of Working and Living Conditions has examined the progress of labour market flexibility. The EU’s Lisbon strategy envisaged that this would be one of the primary movers in the quest to be ‘the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world’. The findings confirm that working time flexibility is the most commonly used method and within this flexi-time, part-time, overtime and night, weekend and shift work are the main categories. More than half of all businesses with more than ten employees offer some kind of flexi-time, a big increase on 2005 when the last survey was carried out. Almost 40% of companies allow time to be banked so that workers can take surplus accrued time off at a later date and most of these accept whole days off in lieu. However only a minority of employers (6%) permit credit hours to be unclaimed for more than a year with Denmark the exception where 30% use these ‘long-term accounts’.
State aid balloons due to crisis
Figures for 2008 just released by the European Commission show that state aid to the economy showed a massive increase after the financial crash. A total of €279.6 billion was disbursed by Member States and the EU itself compared with €66.5 billion in 2007. In absolute terms the UK provided the most: €72.5 billion, but as a percentage of GDP Ireland was way out in front, paying out the equivalent of about 20% of the size of the country’s economy.