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The German Work Ethic: Myth or Reality?



Germany is no more the country of hard workers? Christian Lindner (FDP) and Robert Habeck (Greens) agree on one point for once. Both say that people are working too little. Of all things,. In Germany. Where diligence, efficiency, and a sense of duty have long been part of the self-image,. Finance Minister Lindner believes that the country needs to get back to this and wants to make people “want to work harder.”. Economics Minister Habeck demands: “We need work incentives so that more people voluntarily work more and longer.”

Work more? Many working people want the opposite. 49% of working women and 58% of men in Germany would like to reduce their working hours and do so significantly. Women with full-time jobs could well imagine working an average of 6.2 hours less per week, men 5.5 hours. This was the result of a survey by the Institute for Employment Research (IAB). The May Day protest also ran under the slogan “More pay, more free time, more security.”

The demand for more money is immediately followed by the desire for less work.

Right now, Germans are the least working country in the entire OECD area.

Even in the USA, people are surprised. “Have the Germans forgotten their famous work ethic?” asked a columnist for the US news agency Bloomberg last week, landing him on the front page of the Bild newspaper.
But is that true? Have Germans become lazy—even too lazy? Individuals may deny this for themselves. But what about society as a whole? How much do Germans really work—also in comparison to other countries?

If you do some research, you quickly come across statistics from the OECD, an organization of industrialized countries. It shows that In none of the OECD countries do people work as little as in Germany. On average, the working population here only works 1,340 hours a year. In the USA, on the other hand, it is 1,811 hours. From this perspective, Lindner seems to be right when he says: “Other countries work more than we do.”

A point for the finance minister? Not necessarily. The OECD itself points out that these figures are not suitable for international comparison, even if they are repeatedly used for this purpose. The problem is that their calculations include the working hours of all employees, both full-time and part-time.

So maybe the Germans may not be the ones who work the most hours, but this would merit further investigation.
Not least because, if that were the case, one would have to wonder about the basis of the Germans’ wealth

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