How well-equipped are European companies to meet the challenges of global competition and the recent recession? The 2009 European Company Survey provides some clues.
Eurofound, an EU research agency based in Dublin, surveyed 27 000 public and private-sector employers across the 27 EU countries and in Croatia, Turkey and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
The main results are not due out until March. But the first findings show many companies use hiring, pay and work policies that are flexible - that is boost their ability respond to changes in the business climate. Labour market flexibility is a key element of the EU's strategy for making Europe more dynamic and competitive.
About two out of three companies use freelancers or other forms of temporary help, and more than half employ at least one person on a fixed-term contract.
Part-time work has also become more widespread. Two-thirds of the companies questioned offer part-time work but part-timers in highly skilled positions are still uncommon.
Just over a third of employers offer performance-related pay, while just 14% of the private firms surveyed have profit-sharing schemes.
Flexibility cuts both ways. About 56% of European companies now let employees vary their work hours to suit personal schedules - up from 48% five years ago.
The study was conducted in spring 2009, when the recession began catching up with the job market. Employers reported a strained working climate in several countries.