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  • Work ethics

    Originally posted by telegraph.co.uk
    The atheist sloth ethic
    by Niall Ferguson
    In Europe, nothing happens in August. It is not, of course, that everyone is on holiday. Many readers of this column will be among the unhappy few who are still slogging in to work. But notice the half-empty commuter train, the uncannily smooth flow of traffic at rush hour.

    Notice, too, that virtually no serious decision can be taken in the office throughout this month, because there is always at least one key executive on holiday. London in August is lethargic. On close inspection, a large proportion of the people in the city are, in fact, foreign tourists.

    The impact of high summer on other European cities is even more dramatic. From Bastille Day, Paris is a Parisian-free zone. With the beginning of the Edinburgh Festival, most residents take to the hills, leaving their city to be occupied by a ragtag army of amateur actors.

    Yet the same cannot be said of New York. Having just returned from what apparently remains the terrorists' favourite target, I can confirm that, despite the sweltering heat and multiplying mosquitoes, it is still business as usual in Manhattan. Only a select few of its inhabitants take themselves off to Martha's Vineyard; even among the super-rich, there is a preference for the Hamptons, which are within easier striking distance of their beloved workplaces.

    Everyone knows that Americans have much shorter holidays than Europeans. While German, Italian and French workers enjoy, on average, more than 40 days of holiday a year, the average American has to make do with just two weeks. But this is only part of a growing transatlantic disparity in patterns of work.

    There are, for example, many more Europeans out of work than Americans; over the past decade, US unemployment has averaged 4.6 per cent, compared with 9.2 per cent for the EU. Another difference is in labour participation. Between 1973 and 1998, the percentage of the American population in employment rose from 41 to 49 per cent. But in Germany and France, the equivalent percentage fell to, respectively, 44 and 39 per cent.

    Then there is the familiar European penchant for strikes. Between 1992 and 2001, the Spanish economy lost, on average, 271 days per thousand employees as a result of industrial action. For Denmark, Italy, Finland, Ireland and France, the figures lay between 80 and 120. The figure for America was just 50.

    Nor should we forget our friend the "sickie". It was reported in this newspaper yesterday that Royal Mail employees - one in every 17 of whom calls in sick on an average day - are to be offered a novel incentive to turn up for work.

    From now on, those Stakhanovite types who turn up to all their shifts for six months will be entered in a draw to win a new Ford Focus. In America, they have a rather different approach. Workers who consistently miss work because they are feeling under the weather are given the chance to miss it on a permanent basis - by being fired.

    Of course, people who go on strike or absent themselves because of illness usually return to work at some point. But that is not true of people who retire. Here, too, Europeans are working less than Americans. By 2050, according to UN population projections, the proportion of the European population aged 65 or over will rise from 16 to 28 per cent. America is ageing, too, but nothing like as fast.

    But perhaps the most striking of all the differences between American and European working patterns, however, relates to working hours. In 1999, according to figures from the OECD, the average American in employment worked just under 2,000 hours a year (1,976). The average German worked 1,535 - 22 per cent less.

    According to a recent American study, the average Frenchman works a staggering 32 per cent less. The journalist Madeleine Bunting has recently lamented that British workers are being pushed towards the American model, but the British worker is still working 12 per cent less than his American counterpart.

    This gap between American and European working hours is of surprisingly recent origin; 25 years ago, it didn't exist. Between 1979 and 1999, the average US working year lengthened by 50 hours, nearly four per cent. But the average German working year shrank by 12 per cent. The same was true elsewhere in Europe.

    How are we to explain this divergence? The obvious answer is European legislation such as the French 35-hour week or the recent British reduction of the hours worked by junior doctors. Another theory points to differences in marginal rates of taxation. But I cannot resist suggesting another possible explanation - one that owes a debt to Weber's famous essay The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, which he wrote almost exactly a century ago.

    Weber believed he had identified a link between the rise of Protestantism and the development of what he called "the spirit of capitalism". I would like to propose a modern version of Weber's theory, namely "The Atheist Sloth Ethic and the Spirit of Collectivism".

    The most remarkable thing about the transatlantic divergence in working patterns is that it has coincided almost exactly with a comparable divergence in religiosity. According to a 1999 Gallup survey of religious attitudes, 48 per cent of people living in western Europe almost never go to church; the figure for eastern Europe is just a little lower at 44 per cent.

    In the Netherlands, Britain, Germany, Sweden and Denmark, less than one in 10 of the population now attends church at least once a month. Only in Catholic Italy and Ireland do more than a third of the population worship on a monthly basis or more often.

    By contrast, more than twice as many North Americans as Europeans attend religious services once a week or more. And scarcely any Americans could be characterised as atheists, compared with 15 per cent of Europeans.

    The claim that Britons are the most Americanised of Europeans does not stand up well in this regard. When it comes to religion, the British are west Europeans, not eastern Americans. Fewer than a third of Britons surveyed in a recent BBC poll agreed with the statement "My God is the only true god", compared with half of Americans. Fewer than a fifth of Britons say they would be willing to die for their beliefs, compared with 71 per cent of Americans.

    I do not say that this is the sole explanation for the fact that London today is lethargic while New York toils away as usual. But there is surely something more than coincidental about the simultaneous rise of unbelief in Europe and the decline of Weber's work ethic.

    If I weren't on holiday, I'd write a book about it.
    I noticied this after only living in Europe for a few weeks. Everthing seems like it is closed all the time and everyone is always on "holiday." In the part of Europe where I lived, all the shops and stores closed after lunch on Saturday and stores of any type were rarely open past 6PM during the week (most of them closed at 4 or 5PM!). This is quite a shock for the average American. We're used to everythig being open from 7-8AM until 8-10PM nearly every day.

    The traditional 8 hour work day is pretty much a thing of the past for many people here too. Most jobs want people to work 9 or 10 hours a day and take overtime whenever the company decides they need more hours put in.

    I don't know exactly what the reason for this disparity is either, but any American would pick up on it almost immediately after a short time in Europe. I think a big portion of this comes from the influence of unions and the whole "social" mindset in Europe. Unions, once strong in America, have rapidly died out over the last thirty years and the ones that remain are losing their deathgrip on the industries they "serve." They are more unpopular than ever and more often than not only hurt the workers in the long run.
    Editor-in-Chief
    GameSquad.com

  • #2
    If you think Europe is bad try Australia - they love their relaxed work hours. I think shorter work hours is great personally - people work way more than is good for them

    Comment


    • #3
      The minimum vacation day amount specified by work law in Germany is 23 days, and 40 days are rarely reached.

      The key element for closed shops is not the amount of actual vacation. It is high sick days, low numbers of hours per week and pressure to keep shop staff out of evenings and weekend. [EDIT: not to mention high unemployment]

      You could have 20 days of vacation in the U.S. for a minimum of hassle for everybody else. Studies that the European work laws are based on show that the overall productivity over the whole year is better with higher amounts of vacation.

      The same cannot be said for unlimited sick days with loose proof requirements or less than 40 hours a week.

      So you can have both, and there is strong indication that what the U.S. is doing is not only hurting its employees and families but that there would be a best of both worlds.

      Just add up the number, how much percentage of a year's work hours do you give up by lowering 40 hours to 35 hours versus giving 20 instead of 10 vacation days.
      Last edited by Redwolf; 09 Aug 04, 17:49.

      Comment


      • #4
        I wonder if a solid economy (good wages, low unemployment, etc) and working hard aren't related. Obviously, there's a correlation between hard work and productivity, and productivity does help the overall economy.

        What I mean is that hard work requires support. For instance, suppose I'm a workaholic, and I work 12 hour days. On several occasions, I'm going to need to do my personal shopping in the evenings, or I'll need to talk to a distributor for my company.

        This means service and retail companies will have to open up for extended hours, which means they'll sell more, hire more, etc.

        I'm not sure I buy into the theory of hard work = religion. Mexican are incredibly religious people, and they certainly don't put in the same hours as folks in the US.

        I remember reading a case study when I was in school, about an car manufacturing company that was trying to boost productivity. They offered extra money to the US employees, and productivity soared. Employees work much longer hours to get over time pay.

        When they tried this in Mexico, the opposite happened: employees worked less, and started requesting part-time positions, etc. Because they could make the same salary with less work, they chose to spend more time at home.

        Nat

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Pheno
          If you think Europe is bad try Australia - they love their relaxed work hours. I think shorter work hours is great personally - people work way more than is good for them
          huh? we work longer hours than Americans???

          why do you think the Brits always hire aussies - good work ethic in comparison to their own.

          we have a supposed standard 40 hour week, but more realistically it;s a 50-60 hour week (I work 6 days a week, 9-10 hours a day). The only ones working 8 hours, 5 days a week are government employees, and even then only a few.

          to compare the Franco-German 35 hour week to australia's working week is absurd.
          Now listening too;
          - Russell Robertson, ruining whatever credibility my football team once had.

          Comment


          • #6
            This is an interesting issue in the cultural sense. Lets see, by far the most capitalist country in the world has to be the US. It is not surprising then that Americans should feel that it is deviant to want to not work your arse of for your whole life. I'm sure the capitalist system demands it and fosters it as an American identity.

            What is wrong with not wanting to work past your minimum hours? Say you value your family time more than money, so what. Many jobs in the real world not the office world (where most commercial indoctrinating systems would have you beleive) are very bad for ones health, dirty, physically demanding and dangerous. Personally, i could not give a rats arse about this sort of attitude, the work till ya drop syndrome. Go have your 40 days Europe RIGHT ON BROTHERS!

            What shits me even more is the 'We plan to have a baby in 10 years when we are financialy secure + we both need to work to provide the best for our baby' ie 1 week old baby is in daycare etc. what a complete load of crap, the world will be better of if these people just admit they dont want children and leave breeding to the rest of us that give a damn about children more than the lure of a meaningless dollar. Maybe then there wont be so many ****ed up delinquints terrorising the rest of us because mummy and daddy never paid any attention to them.

            People continually winge and wine how hard it is to live. Newsflash, If you cut your spending down to what you need instead of what you are told you need then you wouldnt need to work so friggin hard. Look at grocery shopping these days, i assume most of you experience the same. In a whole supermarket with 15+ aisles there is only 3 that sell food. The rest, mostly, is junk. Food marketing these days is geared toward fast prep times. go into the freezer section and its full of crap food at the cost of up to $5US for a single serve, and it tastes like crap, its frozen for frigg's sake, what would you expect. Then theres pasta dishes you add a couple of things to and serve, then wolla, the worst crap ever. Not to mention how little nutrients these fast prep foods contain compaired to the fresh stuff.

            Now lets look at the average hardworking westerner family. Dad has main job, mum has a job usually earning less than dad. Consider day care, the high cost of partly or wholly prepared food compared to that of fresh food, plus the constant guilt presents purchased for the child because mummy and daddy are never around. End result, mums job does nothing to bring anymore wealth to the family than what it would be if she stayed home and spent wisely. Again, another fat pound of flesh is torn from bossom of the family, by the capitalist swine that run the world. Sure people work more but this doesnt mean we are richer we just consume more.

            So if any Americans (not saing any will or any think like that just a general comment) would like to get on your high horse about working hours then fool is you buddy, you have been duped by the capitalist system, you deserve pity not respect. I would rather my health and my time with my family than being a retarded slave to a dollar that takes both of those away. I must be crazy

            Phew that was a big rant, in answer to another rant, i've been meaning to get that of my chest for a while, not particulary in here but since the subject was brought up. BTW, heard last week an international labour survey found that Australians top the list as the longest (hourly) working nation. so yes we need pity too, we are capitalist stoolies
            Not lip service, nor obsequious homage to superiors, nor servile observance of forms and customs...the Australian army is proof that individualism is the best and not the worst foundation upon which to build up collective discipline - General Monash

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Temujin
              People continually winge and wine how hard it is to live. Newsflash, If you cut your spending down to what you need instead of what you are told you need then you wouldnt need to work so friggin hard.
              Indeed. They had a report on 20/20 a while back, where they were exposing myths about modern life, and one of them was that it's more expensive to live now than 50 years ago.

              They were chatting with couples, and one in particular was saying that the at-home-mom had to get a job just to make ends meet. The reporter started asking questions:

              Reporter - But don't you have three cars?
              Couple - Yes, but we *needed* them. We needed the mini van with integrated DVD, because the kids would get fussy when we went to do groceries. We needed the compact car because the van was too big for my job (the at-home-mom delivered news papers). We didn't really need the pickup, but that just [husband] that wanted it.



              Three cars for two licensed drivers. Please.

              The same for SUV drivers. They buy monstrous vehicles that burn fuel like pyromaniac teenagers and cost a fortune in maintenance and insurance, then they complain about the high cost of everything. Well, if you bought a reasonable car, insurance rates would go down because accidents would be less damaging, fuel price would go down because demand would go down (not to mention that you would need less), taxes would go down because roads wouldn't need to be rebuilt, pollution would go down, and the world would be a better place.

              Sorry, I had to get that off my chest.

              Nat

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Temujin
                What shits me even more is the 'We plan to have a baby in 10 years when we are financialy secure + we both need to work to provide the best for our baby' ie 1 week old baby is in daycare etc. what a complete load of crap, the world will be better of if these people just admit they dont want children and leave breeding to the rest of us that give a damn about children more than the lure of a meaningless dollar. Maybe then there wont be so many ****ed up delinquints terrorising the rest of us because mummy and daddy never paid any attention to them.
                WHAT!? I wish more people would think about financial security before going off and bringing children into poverty. I think it is irresponsible to have kids THEN worry about providing them. Things don't always work out the way the want. What if you don't get that good job? What if your sector of expertise takes a serious hit?

                If people think more about the conditions they are bringing children into, we'd probably have fewer cases of abuse, neglect, and kids dying from poverty. I know I want to make certain that before I run off to have kids, I can give them a good home, and the best life possible. It has nothing to do with me not wanting children. (That point is drawn by my lack of commitment in relationships; still love my one night stands, and girls-gone-wild-type women too much. )

                Originally posted by Temijun
                So if any Americans (not saing any will or any think like that just a general comment) would like to get on your high horse about working hours then fool is you buddy, you have been duped by the capitalist system, you deserve pity not respect. I would rather my health and my time with my family than being a retarded slave to a dollar that takes both of those away. I must be crazy
                I believe job security and confidence (or a lack of) in the economy are big factors in why people work longer hours. Some people feel that taking a two week vaction, their boss will conclude he or she can function without them.

                Of course, emphasis on luxuries also factor in. I'm certain kids in Paris don't base their parent's love on how much their shoes cost. We Americans must have our new cars, air condition, $200 pants, $2000 computers, HDTV, and 300 channels. We define the world as ending when the electricity goes out for more than 20 minutes!
                "As soon as men decide that all means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they set out to destroy."-Christopher Dawson - The Judgement of Nations, 1942

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Deltapooh
                  WHAT!? I wish more people would think about financial security before going off and bringing children into poverty. I think it is irresponsible to have kids THEN worry about providing them. Things don't always work out the way the want. What if you don't get that good job? What if your sector of expertise takes a serious hit?
                  Thats reaonable enough and theres a big difference in my argument between those in dire poverty an those not, although i didnt mention it. In my experience the ones crying about the cost of kids and the need to spend years preparing them are the ones that are already financialy secure and secure in job prospects for the future.

                  Children need little more than comfortable surroundings healthy food and plenty of love and affection and a resposible outlook by the parent. They don't need things, they don't need the perceived best educational institution etc. We think this because we are told this constantly. How a child develops is more reliant on the parents actions etc, not about what they had. Look at the amount of drug addict useless spoilt rich kids and those from poor backgrounds who make something of themselves. I say the only factor in why wealthier kids tend to be more successful is that their parents are doing a better job with what they have, they are themselves successful so they are in a better position to raise more stable adults. But theres no reason poor parents can't achieve the same thing.

                  C'mon DP, do you really expect your area of expertise to fly out the window, with the state of US foreign policy as it is

                  In this day and age you would be a fool to think your 40 year career is going to be guaranteed in one area anyway, workforces are more mobile/fluid these days. Its a fact, but not a fact that should scare someone about having kids.

                  I bet theres plenty of decent neighbourhoods that have reasonably priced real estate in your part of the world so that if you got settled down tomorrow you would be secure enough to think about kids in a year or two.

                  The fault is with the drive of captalism to manufactre consumers, the more the better. The more people work the more they can consume and the more capital profits from the slice of the pie.
                  Not lip service, nor obsequious homage to superiors, nor servile observance of forms and customs...the Australian army is proof that individualism is the best and not the worst foundation upon which to build up collective discipline - General Monash

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    hmm, about SUVs (aka 4WDs in Oz)...some of us have to get them because we're bigger than the average car suits. I'm referring to height, but I guess girth would be a good analogy too. And considering the average, err, size, of Americans, I think comfort plays a large part.

                    Ofc, some people get them just to be wankers

                    (just to be on the safe side, I currently drive a 2002 Nissan Navara dualcab - gives me room, and if I need to go to a mine site, mobility.)
                    Now listening too;
                    - Russell Robertson, ruining whatever credibility my football team once had.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      with regards to kiddies, my fiancee and I decided to concentrate on our studies and careers first, before having kids. Not so much about not wanting them, as not having the time for them. But only being in our early twenties, we'd rather wait for a bit

                      But what really gets my goat is people that complain about the low level of government assistance ("it's not enough to live on..."). This annoys me as when I was studying, I'd bought an apartment, was working 5-6 nights a week doing night shift at a gas/petrol station, as was my girl, and yet people who didn't work, and lived on welfare were getting more money than us a week - sure having kids may cost a bit, but maybe they'd find if they stopped smoking, or cut down the drinking, or stopped partying every night, they might actually have some money. I'm fairly well off financially now, but even when myself and my fiancee were at our poorest (both studying full time, mortgage repayments, not much work) we had enough money to live quite comfortably.

                      just a gross generalisation, but pretty accurate in Oz.

                      BTW: did ayone hear about the Aust. governments "baby bonus?" One way to solving the aging population crises; bribe people into having kids.
                      Now listening too;
                      - Russell Robertson, ruining whatever credibility my football team once had.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        hmm, about SUVs (aka 4WDs in Oz)...some of us have to get them because we're bigger than the average car suits.
                        I'm not sure I buy that argument. I have a friend that's 6'5", 235 pounds, and he fits just fine in a Toyota Corolla.

                        I'm 6'1", 240 pounds, I have plenty of room to spare in my VW Golf.

                        Better yet, here are some numbers:

                        Honda Civic Sedan
                        Headroom: 39.8
                        Legroom: 42.2
                        Shoulder: 52.1
                        Hip Room: 51.2

                        Honda Accord Sedan
                        Headroom: 40.4
                        Legroom: 42.6
                        Shoulder: 56.9
                        Hip Room: 54.6

                        Nissan XTerra
                        Headroom: 38.6
                        Legroom: 41.4
                        Shoulder: 54.5
                        Hip Room: 52

                        Nissan Titan (Full size pickup)
                        Headroom: 39.7
                        LegRoom: 41.8
                        Shoulder: 65.1
                        Hip Room: 61.5

                        Ford Explorer
                        Headroom: 39.9
                        Legroom: 42.4
                        Shoulder: 59.1
                        Hip room: 55

                        Ford Excursion
                        Headroom: 41
                        Legroom: 42.3
                        Shoulder: 68.3
                        Hip room: 67.5

                        As you can see, the trucks are a bit bigger that the compact little cars, but surprisingly, the little cars have more leg room and head room.

                        If you go to a full size car, you get more room (over all) than in many regular-sized SUVs. Only the biggest of the big SUVs will give you more room width-wize. There's virually no difference length-wise.

                        And besides, 52 inches is pretty wide, by any standards. We're talking almost 4 and a half feet here.

                        Now, if you need to go off road (going over a sidewalk doesn't count), or if you need to haul freight as part of your job, then a truck is warranted. Otherwise, buy small, and work hard because you love your job, not because you have to pay an overpriced toy.

                        Nat

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Ivan Rapkinov
                          with regards to kiddies, my fiancee and I decided to concentrate on our studies and careers first, before having kids. Not so much about not wanting them, as not having the time for them. But only being in our early twenties, we'd rather wait for a bit

                          But what really gets my goat is people that complain about the low level of government assistance ("it's not enough to live on..."). This annoys me as when I was studying, I'd bought an apartment, was working 5-6 nights a week doing night shift at a gas/petrol station, as was my girl, and yet people who didn't work, and lived on welfare were getting more money than us a week - sure having kids may cost a bit, but maybe they'd find if they stopped smoking, or cut down the drinking, or stopped partying every night, they might actually have some money. I'm fairly well off financially now, but even when myself and my fiancee were at our poorest (both studying full time, mortgage repayments, not much work) we had enough money to live quite comfortably.

                          just a gross generalisation, but pretty accurate in Oz.

                          BTW: did ayone hear about the Aust. governments "baby bonus?" One way to solving the aging population crises; bribe people into having kids.

                          I agree, the welfare payments are very generous, and it is easy enough to live on, even save a little if you are smart, sure you aint gettin all the extra's, but it is welfare you shouldnt expect it. Although, if you are unable to work as well as study, which i find i am not able to due to a couple of reasons then Austudy is lacking, it is wthe lowest payment with out added extra's others get like rent assistance, and inflation eats at it regularly as it rarely rises. But im not complaining about that what shits me is someone on unemployment benefits can rake in nearly twice the level of payment that a student gets. Students need daily transport costs and are regularly forking out big dollars for books etc. Some bum not looking for work has no overheads like that, even the ones looking for work have significant less overheads.

                          I like the baby bonus deal tho, my missus concieved on Budget night . Not really but it was around that time so thats what i tell people.
                          Not lip service, nor obsequious homage to superiors, nor servile observance of forms and customs...the Australian army is proof that individualism is the best and not the worst foundation upon which to build up collective discipline - General Monash

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Nat Mallet
                            Now, if you need to go off road (going over a sidewalk doesn't count), or if you need to haul freight as part of your job, then a truck is warranted. Otherwise, buy small, and work hard because you love your job, not because you have to pay an overpriced toy.
                            Even then, few (if any) civilian vehicles are built/designed for off-road usage. If you're going 4x4'ing regularly, you pretty much need custom add-ons (suspension, tires, etc). I've got a mid-sized SUV, and even in the far-northern climates/terrain I've lived in the past few years, I hardly need to use my 4-wheel drive. Can't imagine what one would use it for living in urban areas.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Martin Schenkel
                              Even then, few (if any) civilian vehicles are built/designed for off-road usage. If you're going 4x4'ing regularly, you pretty much need custom add-ons (suspension, tires, etc). I've got a mid-sized SUV, and even in the far-northern climates/terrain I've lived in the past few years, I hardly need to use my 4-wheel drive. Can't imagine what one would use it for living in urban areas.
                              Status i suspect. The worst offenders are mothers with kids, they get them for the space but think they have a license to drive even more inconsiderately than the average woman. (whoops, ah well i may as well say it) The most inconsiderate road users, by percentage, are women. Not saying they are bad drivers, just that they are the biggest assholes on the road, i find.

                              Good work Don, this rant thread you started is better than therapy!
                              Not lip service, nor obsequious homage to superiors, nor servile observance of forms and customs...the Australian army is proof that individualism is the best and not the worst foundation upon which to build up collective discipline - General Monash

                              Comment

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