No, the Greeks Aren’t Lazy. The Germans Are.

June 29th, 2012

A lot of people out there seem to have the notion that Greece’s troubles are the result of laziness.

That really doesn’t seem to be true. OECD:

Average annual hours actually worked per worker 2000-2010

GermanyInformation on item 1473 1458 1445 1439 1442 1434 1430 1430 1426 1390 1419
GreeceInformation on item 2121 2121 2109 2103 2082 2086 2148 2115 2116 2119 2109

And no, labor force participation is not wildly different: 55% in Greece, 60% in Germany.

To quote my friend Katherine: “It’s those goddam hyper-efficient Germans with their ‘work smart not hard’ screwing things up for the rest of us.”

Tongue in cheek there, of course, but it does seem to be German productivity in a single-currency regime that makes it impossible for Greek banks to stay solvent.

And it’s not that Greek bankers, politicians, or workers are lazy. No matter how hard they work, the financial system doesn’t seem to make it possible for them to live a lifestyle in which they crush their grapes with their childrens’ feet. No matter how much they want the “liberty” to live that lifestyle.

Cross-posted at Angry Bear.

  1. June 29th, 2012 at 08:47 | #1

    Ah yes, what Dad always wished for: “La feet Roth’s child”

  2. Olav Martin Kvern
    July 3rd, 2012 at 18:35 | #2

    @BigSis: Nice!

    @Asymptosis:It’s another case of human category error–ascribing cause and effect of large-scale, impersonal events to individual, emotional narratives. An extension of: “I’m wealthy because I have superior morals”/”Poor people are poor because they’re lazy” (which I’m going to refer to as “The David Brooks Fallacy” from here on out).

    “The Greek economy is bad because Greeks are lazy” is just an extension of the same, with the added thrill of “national character” (i.e., racism/tribalism) tacked on. Never mind the facts!

    Better questions: why do we so often turn to these narratives before looking at the facts? Why are they so satisfying for so many people? I think it goes back to my notion of religion–it exists as a way for us to stop thinking about things. If the Greeks work just as hard, for just as long, as the Germans, our biases tell us that they should be equally wealthy. But they’re not…so…we have to keep thinking about it. “Just so” stories that appeal to our prejudices are a much easier way out. Especially if we want to get out of that expensive, “thinking slow” process.



  3. David Kowalski
    July 12th, 2012 at 12:52 | #3

    The West Germans rank 34thof 35 at 1,399 hours per year or an average of 5 hrs 22 minutes 48 seconds per weekday. Germany (including the harder working East Germans) averages 1,413 hours (33rd of 35).

    Mexicans work the most hours (2,253) per year. Koreans were second at 2,193 per year (2010 stat) down significantly from 2,512 hours per year on 2000 when they recorded the top figure. Only Mexican and Koreans average a 40 hour work week, although Chileans and Greeks also exceeded 2,000 hours per year.So Mexicans and Greeks were among the four hardest workers and Germans, particularly West Germans, are statistically “lazy.”

    So much for the stereotypes @BigSis. On the other hand, unions are rather strong in Germany which may have something to do with both productivity and hours worked. It simply doesn’t pay to have expensive workers with short work weeks so more capital is invested for greater productivity.

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