Monday, September 08, 2003

The Culture: 'Lazy' Germans Urged to Work More to Revive Growth

Reuters reports that Germans are lazy:

Long lauded for their Teutonic efficiency and hard work in rebuilding the country after World War II, Germans are now among the world's top slackers and politicians and industry leaders say that must change to kickstart the sagging economy.

"We need longer and more flexible weekly working hours -- 40 hours instead of the average of 37 hours is more reasonable than lower income. It would improve the competitive position of firms and bring more innovation and investment," said Ludwig Georg Braun, president of the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce.

According to International Labour Organization statistics, the average German worked 1,444 hours in 2002, compared to 1,815 hours for the average U.S. worker and 1,707 for the average Briton. Only the Norwegians and Dutch worked fewer hours.

Germans also have more holidays than most other nations -- 30 days leave is standard plus about 12 public holidays.

The Cologne Institute of the German Economy (IW) estimates the average German takes off about another 12 days a year due to sickness, training, maternity and other leave entitlements, meaning most people work the equivalent of a four-day week.

Noting that German growth could be 0.5 percent higher than usual next year as several public holidays fall on weekends, Economy Minister Wolfgang Clement has said Germany is at the limit of what it can afford in holidays and working hours.

Hagen Lesch, an IW labor expert, said if the working week were extended by an hour, economic growth next year could be 3.1 percent, double the institute's current expectations.

Hans-Werner Sinn, head of the influential Ifo institute, says an increase in the average working week to 42 hours would restore German competitiveness lost in the past two decades.

Trade unions have slammed such calls, saying an increase in the working week of just an hour could cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and that the debate ignores productivity.
Why does the state (German or US) regulate how many hours a person may work in the first place? Clearly that ought to be freely negotiated between employers and workers. Rather than lobby for a longer work week, the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce ought to simply lobby for the right to define your own work habits, free from regulation. I wonder the odds of the lazy Germans figuring that one out.

No comments: