The NYT had an article comparing the relative success of Germany's economy compared with France. It notes that Germany has a considerably lower unemployment rate and stronger growth.
The article highlights France's stronger labor market protections as a factor explaining the different outcomes. In this vein, the article includes a quote from a German official that, "the French work to live and the Germans live to work.”
The data suggest otherwise. In 2009, the most recent year for which data is available, the average German worker put in 10 percent fewer hours than the average French worker, according to the OECD.
It seems more likely that the difference in economic outcomes is attributable to the better training received by German workers as well as the greater labor-management cooperation in the workplace in Germany. These factors are mentioned in the article, but are given considerably less attention that the differences in labor market protections.
[Addendum: I chose 2009 because it was the last year for which data is available from the OECD, it is not cherry-picking. I am the hugest fan of anywhere of Kurzarbeit, German's short-work program, but that is not the explanation for why the average work year is shorter in Germany than in France. In 2008, the OECD reports that the average French worker put in 1560 hours compared to 1426 in Germany. In 2007, it was 1556 hours in France compared to 1430 hours in Germany. In short, the gap between the length of the average work year in France and the average work year in Germany predates the recession. The story that the French work less is an invention of the NYT, it does not correspond to the world.]
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