How the Nordic/German model can provide the answers to some very British questions
Have the Nordics & Germans found the right balance between workers’ rights and employer flexibility? This house believes we can learn some lessons from our Eurovision rivals.
For the Motion
David Gibson, Partner, Employment
Although no system can ever be perfect, the model of labour relations implemented by Germany and some Nordic states is one which the UK should study and reflect upon. Based on a combination of key factors such as consultation, bespoke training and implementing structures that promote innovation: these principles are important touchstones for the UK economy
Against the Motion
There have been a number of dominant themes, at the heart of which have been skills,employability and a fear of falling foul of employment legislation. All of these issues have come together under the growing flexible work agenda. It is clear to me that whilst unemployment still remains high, a key reason why it did not rise to the levels predicted at the depths of the recession is because the UK has a flexible labour market. This enabled business to hold onto employees during some difficult times. Having a job, even without the full guarantee of a traditional 40 hour week is far better than no job at all. The Nordic model was promoted as providing a safeguard, particulary for the young, by putting their jobs centre stage. High levels of unemployment in those countries shows that it has failed to deliver.
The German/Nordic model has managed to establish a flexible and adaptive framework which will ensure that such states are well placed to meet the challenges of future economic developments in the global economy. They combine the best elements of planning and consultation with flexibility and respect for employees in providing the right environment for economic growth and stability.
Flexibility in the labour market has been a huge help to business and therefore the economy. However, it is important that it does not become abused. The recent growth in zero hours contracts has to be managed carefully. We do not want a perceived return to time when workers queued up outside employers gates waiting to be offered work. Modern businesses report that their success is down to a positive relationship between employer and employee, with mutual respect. We can learn from overseas not least those countries that value skills and are prepare to invest in high level apprenticeships. If we could merge the best aspects of this with respected flexibility then the UK economy would thrive.