Barbara Geier: Working people?
TEXT & PHOTOS: BARBARA GEIER
We’ve reached the end of the year and here goes another myth: Thought Germans are an incredibly industrious people? Hm, maybe not. According to a study published by the Munich-based Roman Herzog Institute this autumn, the working life in Germany is shorter than in any other EU country, apart from Luxembourg.
In numbers: Germans clock up an estimated 52,662 hours of work during their lifetime, says the analysis, in comparison to 57,342 hours on average in the 27 EU countries. The hardest working people are, apparently, to be found in Estonia, with 71,331 hours of work until retirement. According to the study, the lifetime working hours in Germany correspond to a „very low“ amount of an estimated 1,340 hours worked per year. While Germany is ranked right at the bottom of the „estimated working life per working person in hours“ list, the country’s neighbour Switzerland is up at no. 4 with 64,218 hours. Which, from a German perspective, makes sense, as being industrious – together with on time – is certainly something we like to associate with Switzerland.
The chairman of the Roman Herzog Institute, which happens to be the think tank of the Bavarian Business Association and employers’ associations of the Bavarian metal and electrical industry, also stresses that surveys show that in several countries with long working lives, such as Switzerland, life satisfaction is also high. I’ll leave that to the hard-working Swiss to confirm or, indeed, contradict. Now, the authors of this study have pointed out themselves that the data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the EU statistics agency Eurostat they used for their calculations for individual countries are only comparable to a limited extent so that they results can only be estimates. And given the background of the Roman Herzog Institute, “lazy Germans“ work, let’s just say, better for employers’ arguments in the current public discussion about the four-day working week, a shortage of skilled labour and calls for raising the retirement age.
But. But. Can I just say, from the perspective of someone living in the UK who works a lot with Germans, you certainly don’t get the impression of a very industrious nation: Try getting hold of someone working in Germany on a Friday afternoon – more often than not, that’s a case of ‘Fehlanzeige’. Or try contacting someone on a Friday that follows on a Bank Holiday Thursday. Same case of empty (home) office because taking a ‘Brückentag’ (bridge day) is a favourite German way of getting a long weekend in. Of course, it’s not about the number of hours worked, I can hear all those German employees say (and they’re certainly right): We’re just faster and more efficient, you know! No need to stay at work on a Friday afternoon!
Well, whatever it may be, and never mind how many hours people work during their working life or not, I hope you’ll find enough time in December to enjoy the festive season – have a wonderful ‘Adventszeit’ and a very merry Christmas!
Barbara Geier is a London-based freelance writer, translator and communications consultant. She is also the face behind www.germanyiswunderbar.com, a German travel and tourism guide and blog that was set up together with UK travel writer Andrew Eames in 2010. Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Discover Germany, Switzerland & Austria.
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