A student recently pointed me toward this article from the BBC that addresses the work hours and productivity of Greek workers.
The familiar story is that the Greeks are in a financial mess because they overspend and live beyond their means. Are they also lazy?
The data is mixed. In terms of hours, the Greeks work much harder than their German critics: 2,017 hours per year compared to a scant 1,408 hours in the Deutschland. That’s 43% more hours at the grindstone each year in Greece.
Part of the reason is that the Greeks tend to be more entrepreneurial, owning their own small business as farmers or shopkeepers. No one works harder than someone who pays himself or herself last. Moreover, the Greeks have a higher share of full-time workers compared to part time workers. Compared to the Greeks, Germans take a month more per year of holidays, sick leave, and maternity leave.
So at one level the story of Greek profligacy is wrong. But at another level the data is mixed. The Greeks work long hours but they are not very productive during those hours worked—in fact, they rank #24th in Europe in terms of labor productivity. The causes of labor productivity are complex and beyond any simple narrative. It has to do with physical, human, social, ethical, and spiritual capital. Included here would be attitudes toward competition and striving on the job.
Many of us have experienced shopkeepers more interested in their own cell phones than in their customers’ needs. Hey—life has to be in balance—and one certainly can’t stress out over a few irate customers. And hey, I need my coffee and cigarette break and 15 minutes can stretch into 30 minutes if I’m in a good conversation with a colleague.
I don’t know if that is part of the story. But the stereotype of Mediterranean laziness needs to be reconsidered.
[Thanks to Thomas Jativa for the link.]