This is rather something to celebrate, don\’t you think?
Under the European working time directive, workers are legally not obliged to work more than 48 hours, though under a special opt-out granted to the UK British employees are allowed to work longer if they explicitly agree.
So alone amongst the European Union nations the workers in the UK can work the hours they wish to. Not the hours that others think they ought to wish to, but the hours that they themselves actually do.
The latest figures reverse that trend for the first time under the Labour government, with 93,000 more people now working more than 48 hours a week compared with 2006, taking the total to almost three and a quarter million (3,242,000). The increase represents a rise from 12.8% to 13.1% of the workforce.
And it appears that some 13% of the workforce have different ideas about the hours they wish to work than the panjandrums think they ought to.
As ever, we need to distinguish between what people think others should do and what people actually do if left to make the decision for themselves. While the different EU countries are indeed different it would seem, from the UK example at least, that a possible 13% of the EU population (or workforce rather) are being denied, by law, the opportunity to balance work and family life as they would wish.
The solution to this is quite clear. We should lift the 48 hour limit on the working week for all Europeans, for as we are indeed all EU citizens now, it is only right that all of the others enjoy the same freedoms that the British do.