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Work: Have we Germans become too lazy, Mr. Weber?

Work: Have we Germans become too lazy, Mr. Weber?

A US columnist claims that Germans are working less. Labor market researcher Enzo Weber contradicts and explains why this is not true

This article is adapted from the business magazine Capital and is available here for ten days. Afterwards it will only be available to read at again. Capital belongs like that star to RTL Germany.

Mr. Weber, a columnist for the business portal Bloomberg, assumes that Germans are working less. Author Chris Bryant wonders whether Germans have lost their “famous work ethic.” Have the Germans become too lazy?
It is true that employees have wanted to work less since the early 2010s, although not much less than before. But this doesn’t have anything to do with laziness or a lack of motivation, but rather with the situation on the job market. If it is bad and you can be happy to have a job, then the pressure for extra work is certainly greater than today, when the situation has improved significantly and workers are scarce. We should not define our perspective in comparison to the mass unemployment of the 2000s. After all, living conditions have changed since then.

For example, what do you mean?
In the previous configuration of a single-earner household, the woman was not employed at all and the man wanted to work a corresponding number of hours. Today women are active in the labor market in almost all cases. Accordingly, both would like to have fewer working hours, which leads to the number of working hours per person falling. But if you add up all the previous working hours, then employees in Germany have never worked as much as they do today. The so-called work volume is at record levels.

Enzo Weber

© IAB/dpa | IAB/Picture Alliance

To person

Enzo Weber is an economist and labor market researcher at the Institute for Labor Market and Occupational Research (IAB) of the Federal Employment Agency. Among other things, he deals with overall labor market developments and the economy, labor market policy and demographic change.

So the fact that comparatively little work is done per person in Germany is due to our high part-time quota?
Exactly, the part-time rate is higher than ever before and higher than in many other countries in Europe. But there is also a positive development behind this. Average working hours per capita are higher in countries where fewer women participate in the labor market. Germany is doing very well in terms of women’s participation in the labor market and their part-time work has increased. Shorter working hours for men can certainly be a reflection of this. What also drastically lowers the average are students.

Generation Z, labeled as lazy…
Except she’s not lazy. The working hours and working hours preferences of Generation Z do not differ in their development from those of older people. A distorted picture results if the proportion of students is not excluded from the statistics. However, the proportion of students has continued to rise and, understandably, most of them only want to work a few hours in addition to their studies. If you look at full-time working hours, Germany is not particularly noticeable compared to the EU – neither high nor low.

The Germans work so hard

  • In 2022, all employed people, both full-time and part-time, worked an average of 34.7 hours per week in Germany. This is stated by the Federal Statistical Office. The European average is 37 hours.
  • Compared to other European countries, Germany has a high part-time rate. According to Eurostat, 29 percent work part-time in this country, which is fourth place in Europe and around 10 percent more than the EU average.
  • According to the Federal Statistical Office, normal weekly working hours have decreased by 3.8 hours since 1991. At the same time, the proportion of part-time workers has roughly doubled from 14 to almost 30 percent.

Work independently

More and more employees are attaching importance to work-life balance, and many are currently demanding a four-day week. At the same time, parts of the federal government and company bosses say that we are not doing enough. How can you bring this together?
What you just quoted could also be expressed like this: We want to get as many hours as possible out of our employees in order to maximize our material prosperity. I don’t think that’s a sensible goal for society. But we also don’t have to shorten working hours for everyone – the general four-day week would cost us twelve percent of our hourly capacity. So we have to weigh up what percentage of wealth we want and what percentage of free time we want to have. Neither discussions about the shortage of skilled workers nor the zeitgeist help; everyone has to decide for themselves.

Do we have to choose between hard work and work-life balance?
I think both together wouldn’t be a bad combination. Being hardworking doesn’t have to mean working most hours. Instead of discussing the length of working hours, we should create the conditions so that everyone can choose freely and work independently. I call this the X-day week. We also need to reduce barriers so that fewer people, especially women, get stuck in the part-time trap. And thirdly, I recommend that Finance Minister Christian Lindner abolish the tax advantages for mini-jobs. This means that anyone who works very little is exempt from taxes and duties, regardless of how much their spouse earns. Given the labor shortage, this is out of date.

Source: Stern

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