The directive valid in the European Union governing the regulation of working hours dates from the year 2003. New legal regulations aimed at adjusting to suit the profoundly changing working world are considered overdue. This affects, among other aspects, on-call services, minimum rest times and the flexible calculation of weekly working hours. A proposal for a new directive is to be submitted by the end of 2012.
The ruling of the German Federal Constitutional Court on 12.9.2012 cleared the way for Germany, as the final eurozone country to do so, to ratify the contract for the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). On that very day, the EU Commission presented a schedule for the consolidation of the shared Euro currency. This underpins the announcement made one week previously by Mario Draghi, the President of the European Central Bank (ECB). The Euro will be definitively defended by the ECB.
By Tetsuya Umehara, Plum Field Advisory
What has been described as the "lost decade" in Japan refers to the economic and social stagnation after the boom period at the end of the 80s to the beginning of the 90s. Since the collapse of the economic boom in 1991, the Japanese economy has experienced a series of years of zero, minor negative, or minor positive growth. During this period, quality of life, household income and unemployment remained at the same level without any serious critical decline or growth. Now, there is talk of the "lost decades", highlighting the fact that the Japanese economy has been on hold for the past 20 years.
In the opinion of the EU Commission, the construction sector may become a motor to create new jobs in the union. Subsidising low-energy buildings is to be the key. Loans of around EUR 120 billion made available by the European Investment Bank in June 2012 for the Growth and Employment Pact are to be increasingly used for this purpose.
According to a report by the Institute for Labour Studies on the employment crisis, which was discussed by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on 11 July 2012 in Geneva, unemployment in the Eurozone could increase from currently 17.4 million to 22 million affected persons in just four years. However, ILO Director General Juan Somavia indicates that the unemployment problem is not limited to the Eurozone and therefore needs to be addressed internationally by the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the G20 with an employment strategy.
On 18 July 2012, the EU Commission asked the 27 member states for a mandate to negotiate with Japan about a Japan-EU free trade agreement. This move is welcomed by the pharmaceuticals and food industries as well as the service sector, among others. Japan is the second-largest trading partner of the EU in Asia.
By 2016, 60 percent of the published research results in the European Union are to be freely accessible insofar as the research was subsidised by public funds. EU Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes had this to say on 17 July 2012: "Taxpayers should not have to pay for research results more than once, and they must be able to access the original data easily. We want to reach the next level in the dissemination and use of research results. Data are the new crude oil."
Employers around the globe are reporting difficulty in finding qualified personnel. On the other hand, unemployment has reached record highs in many countries, especially since the crisis. Solutions to this problem observed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development were discussed at the OECD ministers' meeting in May 2012.
On 14 May 2012 the European Commission released guidelines for road tolls on private passenger vehicles. The most important point: foreigners must not be disadvantaged in comparison to residents. This also applies to transit traffic charges. Siim Kallas, Vice President of the EU Commission, explains: "Non-discrimination is a basic right anchored in EU law. It has to be just as easy for a French or British citizen to drive through Slovenia or Belgium as it is for residents of the respective country. Systems for collecting road tolls must be transparent and fair for all."
In its latest report dated 6 June 2012 regarding restrictions on world trade, the Directorate General for Trade of the European Union noted that 123 new trade restrictions were introduced in the past eight months alone, increasing the number of recorded trade restrictions worldwide to 534. The protectionism trend therefore remains unbroken. Even the agreement reached between the G20 – the world's leading economically advanced nations – at their Washington summit in 2008 and regularly affirmed since then, calling for an end to new measures restricting trade and the elimination of existing ones, failed to stop this development.
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