Time-Out for the German Worker

Let’s now get away from Dominique Strauss-Kahn – hopefully for quite a while! – and turn our attention to serious matters, like, say, saving the euro. One big roadblock to doing that is the increasing refusal by the electorates of solid, solvent, predominantly Northern European EU member-states to pledge more money to bail out Greece. “Why should we do that,” Germans ask for example, “when those lazy Greeks all get to retire at age 55?”

Now Patrick Saint-Paul of the French newspaper Le Figaro, possibly acting out of some sense of Mediterranean solidarity, offers a riposte that the Greeks can use: Germans go to sleep on the job! Or at least they soon might do so: the article discusses a recent proposal by a high official of the DGB (Deutsche Gewerkschaftsbund, one of the country’s biggest unions) that all German workers should have the right to a “siesta” on the job, i.e. a period in the early afternoon to just go take a nap.

Of course, the suggestion is being offered not as a concession to labor but rather as a clever way to enable them to be even more productive. “A siesta reduces the risk of heart-attack and allows one to resume work full of energy,” states Annelie Buntenbach of the DGB’s governing board. Then there’s this from the inevitable expert-professor, this time one specializing in “psychological biology”: “A rest at noon permits one to make up for a period of weak productivity and occurs just at the point where chances of an accident are at their highest.”

Anyway, Saint-Paul goes on to mention that, although everyone thinks Germans work harder than Greeks, that isn’t necessarily true: OECD statistics purport to show that the former work only 1,390 hours per year and the latter 2,119. But that might just be a difference without any true distinction.

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