UK: Deloitte Monday Briefing: Who Are Europe’s Hardest Workers?

Last Updated: 21 October 2013
Article by Ian Stewart

Most Read Contributor in UK, August 2017

* According to an opinion poll carried out by the PEW Foundation earlier this year people in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic and Poland believe the Germans are Europe's hardest workers.

* The dissenting voice came from Greece, where people think that Greeks work the hardest.

* The Greeks are, in fact, right. The average Greeks worker puts in 2034 hours per year, the longest in Europe. Only Koreans and Mexicans work longer among the 35 countries surveyed by the OECD.

* German's work 1393 hours a year, 28% fewer than the Greeks. Only the Dutch work less.

* So why do people think that Germany is a nation of hard workers when it's the Greeks who put in the longest hours?

* The answer sheds light on what it is that makes nations rich.

* National income depends on productivity and the size and quality of the labour force.

* Productivity measures the efficiency with which resources are used. Germany is streets in this respect. It takes a Greek worker one hour and 41 minutes to produce what a German makes in an hour.

* Productivity is the basic driver of prosperity; raising levels of productivity is the holy grail of economic policy. Doing so is a complex, uncertain and long term venture. Productivity is influenced by a vast range of factors, everything from education, to technology, the quality of public institutions and infrastructure.

* Even the structure of Greece's economy operates to depress productivity. A relatively high proportion of Greeks work in tourism or agriculture, sectors which are labour intensive but tend not to produce high levels of output per hour worked.

* By contrast, richer countries have a greater presence in high productivity sectors such as manufacturing, finance, technology and business services.

* Workers in rich countries tend to work fewer hours each year than workers in poorer countries. The causation on this probably works in both directions. As incomes rise people tend to trade pay for leisure time. And workers who avoid long hours are probably also more productive when they are at work.

* The US is the conspicuous exception to this rule. In America productivity is high and people put in long hours. This may reflect the fact that, since the 1970s, rising levels of US GDP have not improved real incomes for a large proportion of people on middle and lower incomes - Middle America works hard because incomes are not rising.

* An additional factor affecting GDP across economies is the level of workforce participation. The more people who work, the higher the level of national income.

* For those in work in Greece hours are long, but many people do not work. 51% of Greeks of working age are in employment, far lower than Germany's workforce participation rate of 73%. In particular, women are less likely to go out to work in Greece than in many other European countries. On average Greeks retire rather two years earlier than across the rest of the OECD.

* Raising productivity and getting a bigger share of the population into work have enabled Germany to become a rich country with a short working week. It is an approach which can be seen in much of the rest of Northern Europe, especially Scandinavia.

* Unsurprisingly, in its drive to get growth going the Greek government wants to boost productivity and remove barriers to work.

* The PEW survey suggests that people associate high incomes with hard work. The reverse, is in fact, true. People in rich countries tend to work shorter hours than those in poor countries.


UK's FTSE 100 rose by 1.3% over the week, following the re-opening of US government and positive growth figures from China.

Here are some recent news stories that caught our eye as reflecting key economic themes:


* The US Senate and House of Representatives voted to end the partial government shutdown and extend America's debt ceiling into early next year
* Investors believe US fiscal tightening is currently the biggest 'tail risk', according to the latest Bank of America Merrill Lynch Fund Managers Survey
* The Chinese economy recorded annual growth of 7.8% in Q3 2013, up from 7.5% in the previous quarter
* The Bank of England ran its first ever Twitter Q&A session, answering questions on issues ranging from forward guidance to polishing gold bricks
* The Bank of England's chief economist, Spencer Dale, said on Twitter that economic conditions are unlikely to improve enough to merit an interest rate rise in 2014
* UK energy supplier Centrica announced an average rise in energy prices of 9.2%
* Advertising spending grew at the fastest rate in the UK rose at the fastest rate in 13 years in Q3 2013
* The South Korean won, which can act as a proxy for US growth because Korea exports so much to America, rose to a 9-month high against the dollar after the agreement to end the US government shutdown
* Global sugar prices rose to their highest levels in over a year after a warehouse controlled by Brazil's largest sugar trader caught fire on Friday morning
* The annual crime survey shows that there were 3.7m recorded crimes in England and Wales in the year to June 2013, the lowest level since the current method of recording offences began in 2002/03
* Gaming revenues from the six companies with casino licences in the Chinese gambling enclave of Macau reached $38bn in 2012, making the market six times bigger than that of Las Vegas
* Latest figures from the Council Mortgage Lenders (CML) showed gross mortgage lending in the UK rose at an annual rate of 32% in Q3 2013
* British retail sales in Q3 2013 registered their largest quarter-on-quarter rise since March 2008, with strong sales of furniture and household items
* The chief executive of Lloyds Banking Group, António Horta-Osório, warned that government initiatives to increase mortgage availability must be accompanied by efforts to boost housing supply in order to prevent a "substantial increase in house prices"
* Sales of vinyl records doubled to 550,000 this year and are at their highest level for 12 years, driven by popular releases from bands such as Daft Punk and David Bowie
* Shares in eBay, the ecommerce and payments company, dropped more than 5% after the company said that it expects to see slower growth in the fourth quarter, with a fall in online shopping in the US
* Greece's "troika" of international creditors asked the Greek government to adopt further austerity measures, after identifying a potential €2bn shortfall in the latest budget draft submitted by the Greek government
* Banks are more exposed to their domestic government bonds than at any time since the start of the eurozone crisis according to analysis from the FT
* The Pew Research Centre reported that the under 30s are reading more books than they were 10 years ago due to the rise of e-books and tablets
* Chancellor George Osborne announced that Chinese companies will be permitted to buy into the British nuclear sector
* Chinese inflation rose at an annual rate of 3.1% in September, approaching the government's "upper limit" of 3.5%, with most of the rise attributed to rising fruit and vegetable prices
* The Gulf states of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar produced more oil in the last 3 months than ever before according to data from the International Energy Agency
* Applied Graphene Materials, a manufacturer of the newly developed "wonder material" graphene, announced plans to float on the Aim market, with the company citing forecasts for total graphene demand to increase tenfold by 2017
* Wonga, the online payday lender, acquired BillPay, a German online payments processor, for an undisclosed fee
* Shares in Tweeter, a bankrupt electronics retailer, briefly rose 1,800% on October 4th as some investors mistook its trading ticker symbol "TWTRQ" for "TWTR", the shorthand chosen by Twitter ahead of its stock market flotation – twit who?

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