Friday, April 01, 2005

Social Dumping

I had lunch with a colleague today and he asked me what I thought of Camilla becoming queen of England? I asked him who has agreed that she would be queen? Was it government, the church, or the current queen? He didn't know. He just said: Well, the rules say she can be queen. Rules? What rules? Since when did any country have rules? It seems to me that governments are more than ever in a state of making it up as they go along. I told him that I wasn't following the news in the UK that closely any more. I was more interested in what was going on in the France.

We started talking about the European Constitution and how it is going to be a close thing as to whether it is accepted by France when it goes to the vote in May. Apparently the French are not keen on the idea that members of the European Union will be able to work in different parts of Europe, carrying around with them the social costs of their home country. That is to say, when they work in France, where the social costs are high, they will be relatively cheap to employ. This will no doubt act to bring down the cost of labour in Europe, but also weaken the social service system, which is what the French are unhappy about.

My colleague referred to this situation as 'social dumping'. He gave the example of Polish people who have been coming to France to find work. I didn't understand what he meant by 'social dumping' and I asked him who it was who was doing the 'dumping'. Well, it's the countrys like Poland, who are 'dumping' their cheap labout on the rest of Europe, he explained.

I find 'social dumping' an ugly phrase, and I don't believe that the numbers back up the idea that this is becoming common place. People who come to France don't have an easy time. We ourselves have met some Polish friends who seemed to be very dependent on their employer. Even though he was an architect, normally a well payed job, they lived in a tiny flat and upped sticks and moved to Toulon with only a week's notice a few months ago.

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