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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Thomas Friedman Thinks That the Greeks Have to Work Less

Thomas Friedman Thinks That the Greeks Have to Work Less

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Wednesday, 20 July 2011 03:29

This is what Thomas Friedman said in his column this morning, even if he didn't know it. Friedman told readers that:

"Germans are now telling Greeks: 'We’ll loan you more money, provided that you behave like Germans in how you save, how many hours a week you work, how long a vacation you take ...'"

If we look to the OECD data, we see that the average number of hours in a work year for Germans in 2008 (the most recent data available) was 1430. This compares to 2120 hours a year for the average Greek worker. This means that if Germans want the Greeks to be more like Germans in the number of hours a week they work and the length of their vacations, then they want the Greeks to work less, not more.

Comments (10)Add Comment
It's Productivity Stupid
written by izzatzo, July 20, 2011 6:42
Exactly. Hours per week worked by Germans would be comparable to words per column written by Friedman where increased productivity causes both to decline.

This is why Friedman can say so much in so few words compared to slovenly inefficient Greek journalists.

Stupid liberals.
"Many more Germans actually work ... and efficiently"
written by A Greek bearing facts, July 20, 2011 11:15
It is worth mentioning that the adult employment rate in Germany is 8 percentage points higher than it is is Greece. According to the same OECD statistics quoted by Dean Baker, 70.2% of Germans between 15 and 64 are gainfully employed as opposed to only 62.2% of Greeks. German workers are also considerably more productive. One reason they can work so many fewer hours per year yet enjoy so much higher a standard of living than Greeks is that they work more efficiently. A working Greek may put in more hours per year than a working German, but he or she produces considerably less in that year.
. . .
written by K. Williams, July 20, 2011 11:16
"This means that if Germans want the Greeks to be more like Germans in the number of hours a week they work and the length of their vacations then they want the Greeks to work less, not more."


No, actually this is completely wrong. 70% of all Germans are employed. In Greece, by contrast, just 62% of all people are employed. A much higher percentage of young people in Greece and a higher percentage of old people are doing nothing but sitting on their hands. If Greeks want to be like Germans, they do, in fact, need to work considerably more -- and that's not even taking into account the fact that Greeks are are far less productive than Germans, so every hour of their labor is considerably less valuable.
to A Greek bearing facts and K. Williams
written by Ethan, July 20, 2011 12:00
Your point is what? That they're all shiftless bums just like ... what ... the other southern European peoples ... Turks, Albanians, Romanians, Sicilians??? Or is it that capitalism hasn't worked in Greece because of corruption, tax dodging, elitism?
"Just the facts, mam."
written by A Greek bearing facts, July 20, 2011 12:29
Just stating the plain facts. You are free to interpret them as you wish. I try to steer clear of odious inferences of the kind you seem to draw. ("Shiftless bums"??? Where did that come from?)
...
written by K. Williams, July 20, 2011 1:10
"Or is it that capitalism hasn't worked in Greece because of corruption, tax dodging, elitism?"

While I do think that the Greek economy has been significantly damaged by corruption, tax dodging, and state inefficiency, I (like A Greek Bearing Facts), wasn't reaching any conclusion about what the big problem with Greece is. I was just pointing out that Friedman is right and Dean is wrong -- if Greece were going to become more like Germany, its people would have to work more.
I think Dean is still right
written by Mike B., July 20, 2011 1:28
Assuming the figures given are correct, if you adjust the hours worked for employment rate, you get about 1000 hours per working-age German and 1300 per Greek (assuming all those unemployed do no work). So Dean is still right.
germans also have more paid holidays
written by Ben Zipperer, July 20, 2011 2:47
The Friedman austerity program would additionally impose more paid holidays on the Greeks:
http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/NoVacationNation_asofSeptember07.pdf
Unable to read?
written by Polat Guney, July 20, 2011 4:43
Friedman explicitly writes 'how many hours a week you work'. The figures D.Baker cites are the appropriate ones. Thanks for nothing 'gotcha' boys.

I would point out that, given the nature of the Greek economy, you can be fairly sure that unemployed Greeks are working far harder than unemployed Germans.
"T. Friedman was wrong; D. Baker over-corrected Friedman's error"
written by A Greek bearing facts, July 21, 2011 10:01
Tom Friedman was wrong to think and then to tell readers that Germans work longer hours than Greeks. Dean Baker corrected that error by reporting hours worked per employed person in Germany and Greece. However, his correction overlooked the sizeable difference in adult employment rates in Germany and Greece, which substantially reduce the difference in average hours worked per adult when comparing the two countries.

This is not an earth-shattering correction, but it is a correction nonetheless. The gap in work hours between Germans and Greeks does not go in the direction that Friedman assumes, but it is considerably smaller than Dean Baker suggested. Anyone have a problem with that?

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.

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