Are Greeks the hardest workers in Europe?

 
Butchers in the Omonia market district, Athens A high proportion of Greeks are self-employed, as shopkeepers or farmers

The eurozone crisis has sown divisions in the European family, and Greece in particular has often been singled out for criticism. Has Greece been living beyond its means? Are Greeks lazy? On this second point, the statistics tell a surprising story.

This week Greece is facing more spending cuts after agreeing to a deal of 130bn euros (£110bn, $175bn) to help it avoid bankruptcy.

But the statistics suggest the country has not lost its way due to laziness. If you look at the average annual hours worked by each worker, the Greeks seem very hard-working.

Figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) show that the average Greek worker toils away for 2,017 hours per year which is more than any other European country.

Out of the 34 members of the OECD, that is just two places behind the board leaders, South Korea.

On the other hand, the average German worker - normally thought of as the very epitome of industriousness - only manages 1,408 hours a year. Germany is 33rd out of 34 on the OECD list (or 24th out of 25 looking at the European countries alone).

Europe's top 10 and bottom 10

Most hours worked Most productive Fewest hours worked Least productive

1

Greece

Luxembourg

Netherlands

Poland

2

Hungary

Norway

Germany

Hungary

3

Poland

Ireland

Norway

Turkey

4

Estonia

Belgium

France

Estonia

5

Turkey

Netherlands

Denmark

Czech Rep

6

Czech Rep

France

Ireland

Portugal

7

Italy

Germany

Belgium

Slovakia

8

Slovakia

Denmark

Austria

Greece

9

Portugal

Sweden

Luxembourg

Slovenia

10

Iceland

Austria

Sweden

Iceland

The UK ranks 14th both in terms of hours worked and in terms of productivity

Source: OECD

Only one other OECD country's workers put in fewer hours, and that's the Netherlands with 1,377 hours.

The average Greek is working a full 40% longer than the average German.

But there is more to these figures than meets the eye. There are two big reasons why these two countries have such different annual working hour totals.

Greek olive farmers planting tree Greeks take less holiday, sickness leave and maternity leave than Germans

Pascal Marianna, who is a labour markets statistician at the OECD says: "The Greek labour market is composed of a large number of people who are self-employed, meaning farmers and - on the other hand - shop-keepers who are working long hours."

Self-employed workers tend to work more than those who have specified hours in an employment contract.

The second reason Mr Marianna points to is the different number of part-time workers in each country.

"In Germany, the share of employees working part-time is quite high. This represents something like one in four," he says.

As these annual hours figures are for all workers, the large proportion who work part-time in Germany is bringing down the overall average. In Greece, far fewer people work part-time.

More or Less: Behind the stats

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So, because the two labour markets are structured differently, it is actually hard to compare like with like.

If you account for these factors by stripping away part-time and self-employed people and look only at full-time salaried workers, the Greeks are still working almost 10% more hours than the Germans.

This is because the Germans take more holiday, sickness leave and maternity leave - on average four weeks more than the Greeks.

So far, we have been focusing on those in employment, but only 60% of Greece's working age population have jobs compared to 72% in Germany.

German factory worker Germany's manufacturing sector is highly efficient

You might think, then, that if we looked at the average number of hours worked by all those of working age - dividing the total number of hours worked by the working age population - Germany would come out on top. But no, Greece still beats Germany.

Why is it then that it's Greece that needs to be bailed out, and not Germany?

That's a complicated question. But you get part way to answering it by doing another simple sum.

Take gross domestic product (GDP) - that's the country's entire production - and divide it by the number of workers.

On this basis, the average German worker is more productive than the average Greek. Germany ranks as the eighth most productive country by worker out of the OECD countries - or the seventh out of the European countries - while Greece comes in at 24th.

Mr Marianna says this is mainly because Germany has a very efficient manufacturing sector.

And while a smaller proportion of Germans work in agriculture, here too they are more efficient - partly because "technology is more widespread", he says.

But when all is said and done, Mr Marianna is keen to stress that all these numbers come with a health warning.

They are collected by individual national statistics authorities who each have their own methods of collecting and collating information.

 

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 241.

    Surely the table should say "fewest hours worked", rather than "least". Come on, BBC, this kind of grammatical faux pas is embarrassing.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 240.

    Looking at the UK's ranking, its just as well they're not in the euro zone or they would need a 'bail-out'!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 239.

    Blaming the Greek financial crisis on "the Greeks" is like blaming our own banking collapse on "the British". We didn't have a clue what the banks were actually doing, the people who we elect who you would have thought knew didn't have a clue. I suspect the Greeks were in a similar boat.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 238.

    dear friend bluebell, i agree with u that you met some people do that. Consider that in a "free" country emploees can take advantage to the options available, like working on a island. Depends to their prospectives&skills. What i mean is that you went to an island, you met people of an island.If you go to a large city like Athens you will meet another Greece.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 237.

    You've compared Greek self employed with German big corp employees.
    Why not compare Greek gov workers and bankers with Polish potato pickers, or any farm hand during harvest? I think your headline would be quite different.

    Any self-employed person works hard, it is in there interest to do so.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 236.

    #185. Peter Buck... "you can pick which job you are taxed on" UTTER nonsense !!!! Back it up with tax law facts please, I would love to know how this is acheived!! I suppose you believe the streets of London are paved with gold too....

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 235.

    The last place I worked in the UK prior to moving to work in France demanded that I start at 9am, stay until required, generally 8 to 10 pm with one day off. When in France I worked 5 days 5 1/2 if I wished, had 2 hour lunches, many public holidays & excellent annual leave. I earned on average 4 times what I had in the UK. I came back to England upon retirement, a very bad move on my part.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 234.

    Sorry Just checking the date as i thought it was the 1st of April...

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 233.

    The workers are what the powers that be want them to be. If they're lazy and unproductive, it's because productive and hard working people are not rewarded properly so why bother? If you treat them the same, the productive ones will either turn into lazy or leave.

    Usually the powers that be try to make up for their lack of interest in productivity by making workers work longer hours.

  • rate this
    +23

    Comment number 232.

    They will have to be now. And still end up with nothing. Most of the time if you work hard you can gain a way of life that suits you. I think with the latest cuts the Greeks are stuffed for generations to come. They will default eventually.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 231.

    Greeks' problems has nothing to do with their creditors. It is, and can be, the responsibility of those that asked for more than they could afford. They spent too much. Now we in the UK must pay for that. Its ludicrous to blame us for giving them the money which got them into debt.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 230.

    If the Greeks paid the correct tax on their earnings they may not be in this position!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 229.

    If you have a single currency covering economically developed & economically underdeveloped areas then the currency value will always be set to suit the economically developed area. For an undeveloped area to to survive in that environment it needs to be subsidised. The developed EU countries aren't willing to subsidise the undeveloped ones enough so their economies are failing,

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 228.

    Hours worked don't mean much.
    Efficiency, effort and determination to do job properly is key.
    I probably read it wrong in chart but Hungary are second longest hours with second worst productivity. Says it all really.

    Plus how long are the breaks and how many are taken. If a worker takes 10 cigarette breaks and also a long lunch. It breaks up work momentum. This will affect work productivity.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 227.

    Attendance is not productivity. Surely it's what you do whilst at work, not how long you're there. The Germans take more holidays because they can afford to. I wonder why that is?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 226.

    Shut down Greece government machine and give the keys to the Germans. At least thay way, people will realise what is actually going on.

    Effective February 2012, Greece is no more independent.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 225.

    I remember my dad leaving for work at 7am and coming back home after 8pm too tired to even sit down and have a chat with his four children! He struggled to raise us efficiently, paid for our clothing, food and studies! Now he can't even live off his pension! there are lazy and hard working people everywhere! no one should stick to an opinion as such for an entire nation!

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 224.

    I have closed the business I had in in Athens for 7yrs,shop hours were 9am till 9pm. Lazy? I was taxed not only on what I sold, but what was estimated I should be making..regardless of the ups and downs of consumer spending.Fair? As previously self employed I am not eliglble for ANY benefits at all, but still get tax bills. When the music is off, everyone is an expert dancer..as the Greeks say!!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 223.

    The myth that the British work the longest hours in Europe has been busted. Even the Italians work longer hours. I worked in Italy last year and the local estate agent open its doors at 8am and shuts at 7pm (or 6pm on weekends)

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 222.

    I'm an expat living in Greece. The main Post Office on the island opens from 8-2 Mon to Fri, as do the 'phone and electricity companies. All are state run and manage 30 hours a week-

    If you go to a small town in the USA you will find the post office open at best 10-4 with a half day during the week and Saturday and closed Sundays.
    In the average UK small town it will simply have been closed!

 

Page 11 of 23

 

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