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Facing the Future

A big challenge for European labour markets is to combine greater flexibility with maximum security for all. The drive for flexibility has given rise to increasingly diverse contractual forms of employment. These can differ significantly from the standard contractual model in terms of the degree of employment and income security and the relative stability of the associated working and living conditions.

Rapid technological progress, increased competition stemming from globalisation, changing consumer demand and significant growth of the services sector have shown the need for greater flexibility. The emergence of just-in-time management, the shortening of the investment horizon for companies, the spread of information and communication technologies, and the increasing occurrence of demand shifts have led businesses to organise themselves on a more flexible basis. This is reflected in variations in work organisation, working hours, wages, and workforce size at different stages of the production cycle. These changes have created a demand for a wider variety of employment contracts, whether or not explicitly covered by EU and national legislation.

Non-standard as well as flexible standard contractual arrangements have enabled businesses to respond swiftly to changing consumer trends, evolving technologies and new opportunities for attracting and retaining a more diverse workforce through better job matching between demand and supply. Workers are also afforded greater choice, particularly as regards working time arrangements, increased career opportunities, a better balance between family life, work and education, and more individual responsibility.

You can read more about the EU’s work on these issues:

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