The Belgian Federal Government is pondering the possibility to move away from the 38 hour work week and introduce a more flexible system that emphasizes on the amount of hours worked in a year. While this might appeal on face value, the idea has some serious pitfalls and arises from a common logical error: its argumentation is based on how the world should work, rather than on reality. The unintentional real world net impact just might be that we will all be working more, or is it? Please continue reading and verify my train of thought.
The elevated Belgian salary cost puts our country at a serious competitive disadvantage. As it costs significantly more to hire an employee in Belgium compared to other European countries, local companies run a lean workforce, with as few hired hands as possible. With this in mind, most enterprises will welcome the possibility to use workers for more hours than the standard 38 hours per week.
Another consequence is that, by definition, slow periods become increasingly rare. So while the possibility to work more will be welcomed, compensatory slower work weeks will simply not be a frequent option.
So what will the net effect of this new policy be? Longer working hours and a reduced incentive to hire additional employees.
Added flexibility or a sneaky way to stretch the work week? Let’s wait and see.