The financial crisis in Greece

In Greece, one out of every four people is currently without work. The country is absorbing money from its European Union partners just to stay afloat and chip away at its staggering debts.

Politicians from the stronger areas of the EU, including Angela Merkel of Germany, have declared that the people of Greece must give up their pensions and take salary cuts to help fight the debt. In response, the Greeks are portraying the Germans as ugly, elitist authoritarians. Some of the old stereotypes and negative characterizations are back:

Take a look at the following anti-German protest in Greece:

In a survey of 800 Greeks, 79% characterized Germany's role in Europe as "negative" and less than 9% had "positive feelings" towards Germany. Odd, considering the German people will be financing Greece's new 130 billion Euro rescue package. Tax hikes are on the way for those living under Merkel's government, so expect goods to become more expensive and the cost of living to go up in Germany.

Not surprisingly, the Germans are angry, too. They have to open their pocketbooks and pay for somebody else's mistakes. Still, the Germans should not be angry with the people of Greece. In fact, the Greeks work more hours than the Germans:

The most recent data from the OECD covers 2008 and shows that in that year, Greek workers on average worked 48% more than their industrious German neighbors. The OECD data shows the average Greek worker spent 2120 hours at work compared with 1429 hours in Germany. Moreover, Greece is one of the only OECD countries in which workers were working longer in 2008 than in 1998. With 1802 hours at work, the average Italian employee spent more than 25% more time at work than the average German worker (source).

Of course, time at work does not automatically equal productivity. But let's be clear: even if the Greeks may not have been working hard or investing wisely, looking at the big picture, it's interesting whose name is not being mentioned. The Germans and Greeks are going for each other's throats, but what about the bankers and politicians who were playing around with the fake money, just like in 1931? This has all been wiped from the books. Why is the public not informed?


  1. I am suspicious of the methodology that tells us Greeks work so hard. It just feels wrong, and does not jibe with longstanding cultural characteristics. Anyone who has spent any time with Germans and with Greeks will tell you which group works harder.

    Are those hours-worked figures based on self-reporting?

    Greeks are also notorious tax-dodgers. A huge part of their economy has been off-the-books. Greece's problems are

  2. "Hours worked" does not mean "productive hours worked", correct.

    But are we really going to write off Greece's problems with lack of innovative economic activity and investment in tourism?

    I mean, where is the innovative economic activity of any country these days? Germany isn't exactly a tropical paradise, and it seems most of the profits made these days in business come from pushing numbers around; since that is the trend, I'm willing to believe that numbers were pushed around vis-a-vis Greece, at Greece's disadvantage, and this is the source of the turn south.


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