Many of us know what it’s like to get back home after a long day’s work, crash on the sofa and rest your eyes, and then groan as your phone starts bleeping with more work-related stuff.
You feel pressured to respond, you stress out that your boss will hold it against you the next day if you don’t. And your free time takes a knock.
Over the past months, people have voiced concern that their free time with their families and friends is slowly getting eroded as a result of expectations that they are instantly contactable. Some have called it the paradox of the digital age; we’ve never been so connected, but we’ve never been so lonely. This is a prime example of how the European Parliament can remain relevant to its citizens.
I pledge to tackle this issue head on and push for guidelines about the right for people to disconnect
For the sake of that elderly couple whose children are too consumed by work to visit her, for that young couple who are being burdened by excess stress in their first years of married life, for that old group of friends who no longer have time to regroup.
And this is just part of a revolutionary approach to work I intend to push forward in the coming years
Studies have consistently shown that happy employees are more productive at work, so why should we remain stuck with a 9-5 mentality? Why should people work long, rigid hours in which they end up wasting a lot of their time anyway? Technological progress allows us to work more intelligently and flexibly and therefore change our mentality of work itself from a classroom-like regime to a results-oriented approach.
As the lead negotiator on the new Work-Life Balance Directive and EPP Coordinator on Employment and Social Affairs, I know exactly what it takes to deliver results in this field in the European Union
In the EPP Group, we have placed employment and social issues at the very top of our agenda. This played a major role in securing an agreement on the directive. Now that the European Parliament has voted in favour of this law, it is up to member states to implement it into law and I augur the Maltese government to do so swiftly and efficiently so you will all start feeling the benefits of it. This is not just more euro-chatter or chest beating.
This will introduce a minimum 10 days of paternity leave, a minimum of two months of paid parental leave for each parent until their child turns eight and a minimum of five days of carer’s leave per year to allow people to spend time with their sick relatives.
I stress that these are minimum standards; countries are allowed to go above and beyond. I urge the Maltese government to seriously consider doing just that, because at the end of the day, this directive is all about the right to spend time with your loved ones without stressing about work. After all, we only have one life and, as mentioned earlier, a happy employee is a productive employee. I firmly believe this will be a win-win solution.
And what about businesses?
If there’s one thing that truly sets Malta apart from other countries it’s the entrepreneurial spirit of its citizens. On an island with no natural resources, we have had to learn how to be resourceful ourselves, and I love speaking to people who, with a twinkle in their eye, recount to me their business ideas and plans.
I have heard of some fascinating ideas with the potential to take the world by storm, but unfortunately many of them end up getting killed in their cradle by something as mundane as pure bureaucracy
This is where politicians come in.
While we cannot make your business a success, we can certainly remove the hurdles and barriers that are stifling your business and provide the support systems to help it flourish.
Let’s not beat around the bush here. One of the major problems many aspiring businesses face is access to finance and expertise. Yes, there are banks and business schemes out there, but more must be done to give these businesspeople a leg up, especially when their projects are particularly innovative.
Initiatives modelled on the EU’s Microfinance Facility, through which the EU guaranteed small bank loans for entrepreneurs, are brilliant. After all, for some projects, €20,000 is all you need to get started. However, more must be done to increase awareness about the existence of these schemes, to make them more accessible and reduce red tape.
The time has also come to properly recognise angel investing as a way to harness technology for the sake of entrepreneurs. Apps are already out there that allow people to invest sums as small as €20 into interesting concepts, and this is a field the EU should branch into.
We are living in times of rapid change, which can be at once both scary and thrilling. Yet opportunities are out there, and the EU is the perfect place to harness them for the good of its citizens. As one of the most experienced MEPs, not only in Malta but in all of Europe, I don’t only know what needs to be done, but crucially, how it needs to be done. And I firmly believe that we have no time to waste.
David Casa is the Coordinator on Employment and Social Affairs for the EPP Group in the European Parliament.
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