The globally integrated economy we are told, means more sweat

Globalization and working time: working hours and flexibility in Germany

From Politics & Society

Pressures to work more hours, more weeks, more years and to have more flexibly are trends throughout the industrialized world. Newspaper headlines regularly observe the changes Europeans face, New York Times editorialist Thomas Friedman quipped that “French voters are trying to preserve a 35-hour work week in a world where Indian engineers are ready to work a 35-hour day. Good luck”. Many commentators and policy makers link any increases in hours and work-time flexibility to the competitive exigencies of globalized trade and production. This article challenges popular wisdom that economic globalization uniformly increases working time in industrialized countries. It argues economic openness has uneven consequences for working time, and firm-level labor representation channels those consequences in ways that highlight political agency in how people respond to globalization.

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Abstract

This article challenges popular wisdom that economic globalization uniformly increases working time in industrialized countries. International investment and trade, they argue, have uneven effects for workplace bargaining over standard hours and over work-time flexibility, such as use of temporary or fixed work contracts. The authors explain how such globalization will tend to more substantially decrease standard hours than it does work-time flexibility. And they explain how works councils and union-led collective bargaining alter the way globalization affects both aspects of working time.The analysis of German enterprise data supports these expectations. Measures of globalization diminish standard working hours but yield more temporary work, fixed-contract work, and flexible working arrangements. Works councils and collective bargaining, however, mediate these effects in contrasting ways. Among enterprises without works councils or collective agreements globalization triggers more standard hours, but among firms with such representation globalization triggers fewer hours. With respect to flexibility, however, globalization increases use of temporary or fixed-term contracts more strongly where works councils or collective bargaining are present than when they are not. In short, economic openness has uneven consequences for working time, and firm-level labor representation channels those consequences in ways that highlight political agency in how people respond to globalization.

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Article details:
Title: Globalization and Working Time: Working Hours and Flexibility in Germany
Authors: Brian Burgoon and Damian Raess
From: Politics & Society December 2009 vol. 37 no. 4
DOI: 10.1177/0032329209349224

     
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