Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears!
La Dolce Vita – Europeans certainly know how to live. They understand the concept of a good work life balance. The Spanish, although less common these days, have their siestas, the Italians their pisolino, a short afternoon nap to reinvigorate the soul. Factories across Southern Europe basically shut down for their two-hour lunches. Gotta love those 30 hour work weeks, and 30 day paid vacation which can be carried forward if you don’t use them. Hey, and look at all those studies that conclude how taking breaks can increase productivity.
Seems the Europeans have it all. I mean, who wouldn’t want that kind of life?
It’s been 8 years since the Global financial crisis. Many European States have yet to recover. Unemployment in Portugal and Italy is above 10%, and in Greece and Spain, North of 20%. Ireland has perhaps escaped being encapsulated in the rather derogatory PIGS acronym, but their labour market has not faired much better with unemployment at 8.4%.
If you are fine with that, then by all means continue your way of life. But apparently many of you are not, and in recent months we have seen industrial strikes from Cyprus to Croatia indicating your discontent.
Welcome to the 21st Century.
The fact of the matter is that the World has changed.
With globalization comes competition from abroad. For simplicity’s sake, let’s break it down.
If you were a factory owner and had the choice of hiring one person who worked a 30-hour week or one person who worked 40-hour week for less money than the first, the rational decision would be to hire the latter. Well the decisions that your companies are making to outsource to foreign countries are essentially the same decisions. Other countries with more competitive workforces are taking your jobs. Now you might say well hey, we are better educated. But take a stroll through any of the top colleges in the US and you may want to reconsider. MIT, Duke and RICE Universities have over 20% Asian attendance. The Asian business leaders of tomorrow are receiving the finest education in the world. The proliferation of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) will level the playing field even more in the years to come.
You can take arms against a sea of troubles and blame your government for not doing enough on job creation. No doubt, they could do more by tweaking the tax code, offering incentives for small businesses, or imposing tariffs on imported goods. But a trade war will unlikely benefit anyone.
The fact is, with globalization comes competition. Mexicans and Korean are working 40+ hours a week. You now have to compete with a hungry Asian workforce that is willing to do what it takes to succeed.
If you want to continue in your idyllic ways, then fine, go ahead. We all want to work less and play more. But as a European living in Asia, I see first hand the drive and determination abundant across the continent. They want what you have, and in the end it is survival of the fittest. So go ahead, fight for a 4-day work week. I’ll work six. Demand your 2-hour lunch break. I’ll eat at my desk. The Asian workforce will not slow down for you. The Japanese have a saying that in order to compete with the Chinese, they need to wake up at 4am. I just believe in hard work.
So you can keep your siestas and have a crappy economy, or compete fiercely and reclaim your industrial might.
The choice is yours.
“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves”
Dean Owen is Co-Founder of Quimojo, a revolutionary new concept in Global Campus Recruitment.
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