A majority of Europeans feel working conditions in their country have deteriorated over the last five years. According to Eurobarometer, more than half believe that conditions in general have worsened since the economic crisis began, over a quarter say they have stayed the same, while only 12% think they have improved.

However, despite this gloomy outlook, most Europeans (over two-thirds) are personally satisfied with their own working conditions. A huge chunk of the working population (80%) are satisfied with their working hours, 74% are satisfied with their workload and 90% say they get at least one month of paid vacation per year.


So, are Europe’s economic woes down to us not working hard enough? We had a comment sent in by JJ arguing that Europeans should not take our relative standard of living for granted, and that the economic success of countries like India and China was due to the fact that they work harder than us.

At a recent event held in Brussels by our partner think-tank Friends of Europe, we spoke to Poonam Kumar, Chairperson at Mega-Ace Consultancy, a global management consulting firm that advises multi-national clients on understanding the Indian market.

Kumar agreed with JJ to some extent, arguing that there was a degree of complacency encouraged by high levels of social security and welfare in Europe. Nevertheless, she believed that many Europeans – and young Europeans in particular – were eager to innovate and work hard:

For a different perspective, we also put the same question to Shishir Kumar Bajoria, a former President of the Indian Chamber of Commerce and current Chairman of the IFGL Group. He completely disagreed with JJ, arguing that India’s competitive advantage lay in other areas, and that in India people look at Europe and say: “Oh my God, you guys work hard!”

Suggestions that Europeans will need to work harder, more efficiently and for longer hours in future are deeply unpopular. In France, for example, reforming the cherished 35-hour work week has long been a political taboo (though France’s new Minister of the Economy, Emmanuel Macron, recently courted outrage by suggesting that the 35-hour week “should no longer be put on a pedestal”).

Statistics suggest that, on average, Americans and Asians do indeed work more hours than Europeans. Nevertheless, the data also suggests that not all the stereotypes about Europeans are accurate. The OECD reports that Greece is the hardest working country in the EU in terms of annual hours worked, whilst Germany and the Netherlands are at the very bottom of the table.

Are European workers too complacent? Will increasing competition in a globalized world force us to worker harder and for longer hours? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – reynermedia

36 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    They simply got a choice.. If other parts of the world had the same opportunities, they would too.. That is why Europe is very attractive to migrants.. We are very spoiled over here, compared with other regions! That does not mean that all is easy. The more money the more competition so Europeans have to study harder than others, if they want to make a decent living. But once they do, the opportunities are there for them to exploit. People in regions have education but no opportunities.

  2. avatar

    in m opinion, due to the fact that wages are positively correlated to marginal labour productivity, not necesseraly Europeans will have to work much more or harder. It is important to make investments in researche and formation of european workers. Howeve, it is necessary to make that conditions happen, otherwise states like India, China or other emerging markets will make the difference in global market, with european workers facing a continuous decrecing worker conditions.

  3. avatar
    Gatis Gailitis

    No. It’s not laziness. It’s how the people choose to be. We work to live not live to work. That’s the difference. For someone who works 14 hours hard labour in China can only dream about 8-5 shifts

    • avatar

      But, in the long run, China and India will grow richer and we will be stagnant. Surely that’s not what we ant to happen.

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Michael Doulakis

  4. avatar
    Jaime Martins

    Continue copying the American market job, you’re going far, to the path of misery in Europe.

  5. avatar
    Jaume Roqueta

    well.. what about you.. people of the debating europe? are you more lazy than people from debating china?

    • avatar

      Since when do they have debates in China?

  6. avatar
    Jaume Roqueta

    neverhteless… we work more hours than animals… animals typically spend arround 4 hours to find food… so evolution has been a wrong bussiness… but if you want to increase the productivity you can tell to neo-liberals to implement a military control on population and you will see how they work for more than 12 hours per day!.

  7. avatar
    Mhitsos Xanthos

    Europeans are more efficient than workers in other countries. Yet since the 80’s i is more and more the top 5% who reap the benefits. Are we back to feudalism yet? Because we ae going that direction and war with Russia too.

  8. avatar
    Alex Tselentis

    Ask the bankers, they the ones running the show, million dollar bonus’s for them, cuts and austerity for the peasants, status quo will continue, sheep will be sheep.

  9. avatar
    Victor Abreu

    Vadios na Europa? S se forem mesmo os portugueses, espanhis e italianos. Trabalham mais horas e recebem menos que os senhores do norte – alemes por exemplo. Esses sim so os grandes trabalhadores

  10. avatar
    Vinko Rajic

    I think i Europe some people just get money and don’t pay tax but others has to pay tax for them . Some people know how to use system .

  11. avatar
    Anatilde Alves

    I dont think Europeans to be lazy at all , work shouldnt be your life , you work so you can live , not the other way round.

  12. avatar
    Virgilio Grigiotti

    That’s enough. Austerity is a extreme neoclassical experiment that doesn’t work. Let’s stop calling alibi.

  13. avatar

    Are Europeans lazier than workers in other parts of the world?

    I guess not. It depends how you look at the half filled bottle. Just think Chinese work hours / Chinese money + “benefits” . How’s that ? But of course this is over simplified. The reality is that a lot of blue collar Europeans make more money per hour than anywhere else in the world. Are they willing to do the same job for half or a quarter of what are they are making now ? Probably not. Are they “lazy” for not doing it ? Probably not. And besides, that’s a massive beyond control job export from western Europe to East and Far East. Is room for flexibility and are Europeans willing to start over and push the reset button 3, 4 or 5 times in their life time ? Hmm, maybe. Is room for better working condition ? Of course, but considering the circumstances, I don’t really think that most of Europeans are in position to be “picky”. Maybe later on, when neo liberals will let go the ropes.

  14. avatar
    Paul X

    Europe’s brand of Socialism encourages laziness. Anything that strives to give people more for doing less cannot create a hard working ethic. For example the French manage to find more time for militant action to protect their benefits then they do actually grafting and look what state that country is in

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      @ Paul X:

      You appear to suffer with the British disease that feeds on somehow ‘benefits’ are given by governments to its citizens via their goodwill. This is not only an erroneous belief it is seriously dangerous to imply. It could insight riots against the state.

      ‘Benefits’ received through government contracts with the people, who pay to these same administrators through taxation, is their ‘right.’ The agreement between the citizen and its parliament are based on trust and goodwill. Otherwise the public would have every reason to withhold taxes against any state they feel is not complying with their part of the bargain.

      How can you as a British citizen condone the theft of tax payers money, shelled out in so called benefits to those in dire straits, now pretend they have no right to these funds, which were given in the belief they were paying for just this circumstance. Then have the audacity to refer to them as lazy. They paid this money as an insurance against destitution whilst employed. I admit the handing out of tax payers money in its billions as Aid to foreign governments and onward to millions of destitute immigrants, from outside the EU is quite another fraud or misuse of our revenue. But, the legitimate British people are not such a case. The UK government has committed the most heinous crime against its people on every level and as individuals they should personally should be paying the price for this fraud and gross misuse of their revenue. A human being placed this practice above the head and welfare of its citizens whilst in full knowledge of the grave inhumanity it would create.

      How the present British group who have taken the reigns in our State under false pretences are not being personally and collectively sued for this fraud, by forcing the disabled and poverty stricken into homelessness and starvation, the way they are today is a mystery to me. Why is the Human Rights Court not addressing this matter? And to add insult to injury allowing media to abuse them in every turn by lying outright to them on a daily basis. Yesterday being the biggest of all deceitful statements to the House by our lowlife Chancellor Osborne.

      What do you believe the tax payers hand their money to the state for? To bail out fraudulent bankers who continue to pay themselves millions in fees? Or, perhaps to create and support wars with the lives of our citizens in collusion with foreign states? Do you honestly believe the regime we have, advised the people in their manifestos, those same people who pay into the Inland Revenue, that should bank fraud put them into massive debt, we will be using their insurance funds paid up against illness and destitution, to keep these creeps float? Did they tell them that In return for this robbery, they will leave massive amounts of our countrymen begging to survive rather than be given the cash they paid in before they changed their nasty wicked minds.

      The French have far more savvy and guts than the stupid British who beg to be taken for fools under the influence of media propaganda, and yours. Telling them those who receive ‘benefit’ paid for by themselves, are lazy scroungers. The scroungers are government officials and those who get paid far above their worth both in the Commons, Lords and Monarchy, until the day they die. Those are the true ‘benefit’ claimers as most of them pay no tax at all, ever. Funny that isn’t it? Then consider the additional fraud of working tax credit, where the citizen is funding big business which is subsidising big companies and corporations who will not pay a living wage. In fact, what it amounts to is the citizen paying their own wage bill. Also add that to the bull this government is now claiming regarding the horrendously low paid will be free of a tax bill, by taking them out of any more. When, in fact, this move is collusion to bring about slavery. These people are paying VAT at a rate that is utterly obscene. That is massive taxation. And when you look into what those who earn very little do pay in a variety of hidden taxes, you find they actually pay 65% of all they earn. Regressive taxation means the poor pay a huge amount more than corporations or the well off in the extreme. All to fund the gross misuse of their money by the elite.

      It’s time for the people to sue the state for absolute abuse of power and outright intentional fraud. Thus, taking those in charge of this fiasco to court and stripping their personal assets. Let them line up for the benefits and work in zero hour contracts and see just how they fare.

      Pity there isn’t a law the equivalent of holocaust denial to stop people like you maligning the poorest in our society on a lie. Those who do this should be incarcerated in the same way the deniers are.

      I wish every one of our citizen had the understanding and courage of the French. That way we would see change. The kind that would benefit the majority in every way.

    • avatar
      Paul X

      Sorry Catherine but I fell asleep half way through that……….. anyway, whatever you are on about it wont change the simple fact that if people know they will be worse off in work then on benefits then they wont bother getting off their arse

      I would never deny someone in real dire straits benefit money which I have contributed to all my working life, but I am entitled to critisise those who use my money to maintain their 20 a day and cheap cider lifestyle

  15. avatar
    Rui Jamp

    of course… they still want money, don’t want to work for free… In Portugal, imagine, they want more than the 500? per month that they get now when they sometimes work 10h/day… lazy people the Europeans.

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      @Paul X:

      You simply cannot take on board that taxes and National Insurance is paid for by all to take care of all, no matter whom, when the cards are down. And that includes you. Picking on a few who you could count on your fingers because they smoke or have a can of beer is absurd. Do you Ski? Travel to countries that have disease, ride the tube, which is full of tuberculosis, swim in the sea, drive too fast or do any other dangerous ruse or deviant sexual practice, that may turn you into an NHS patient and thereby into a benefit claimant? No? I bet if you think about it hard enough you will find you do something that is going to make you unfit for purpose as the years roll on. Even gardening takes its toll. And the poorest pay the highest taxes of all. Why should they pay 65% of all they earn to keep you and your family looked after?

      Fat people or the obese are growing in unsustainable numbers in the UK for the very same reason it has become a plague in the USA. GM foods and fast food additives. People no longer know what fresh organic produce tastes like. Not to mention what medication, like steroids, do to a population that is fed these ridiculous pills at the rate of sweets to keep the pharmaceuticals in business.

      Europeans were not fat before fast food and its additives, which only points to the fact that these are the reason the livers and thyroids of the masses are not functioning as they should. Not their poverty.

      So, blame the corporations and half wit politicians who are in the business of poisoning their own people rather than tell these schmucks who make it to get lost. Or, do you really believe the poorest in society are the cause of their own demise?

      As I wrote in previous posts, you show me any scientific study that proves the poorest are the cause of the UK and Europes financial downfall, rather than the financial market players in the USA and the City, and I will eat my hat.

  16. avatar
    Paul X


    Maybe instead you should show me where I have blamed the poor for Europe’s financial downfall?

    I have no doubt that at some point in my life I may have to rely on benefits and I will accept them with a clear conscience knowing that I have earned them

    I have also stated many times that I do not begrudge the truly needy access to these benefits

    But you must live a very sheltered life if you think you can “count on your fingers” those who abuse the system. There is a whole council estate chav culture who think the country owes them a living for doing sfa. These are the second generation of those made unemployed by the Tories in the 80’s and they have no other experience then the benefit culture

    These are the ones I feel perfectly entitled to detest as a waste of my hard earned taxes

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      As I wrote above, you are one the British who has caught the disease our government propaganda insists on, that we must shoot ourselves in the foot. For an obviously bright man, you certainly are easily mugged.

      Weigh up this reality with what you are swallowing before you write the kind of nonsense you spout.

      It is imperative the British find the equivalent of Nigel Farage and UKIP, only beginning the mantra from the opposite end of the spectrum. We need an Alexis Tsipris and his party in the UK. And we need it quickly.

    • avatar
      Paul X

      At least my “nonsense” as you call it is on topic for this thread

      It may well be a fact that for every £1 swallowed up by benefit fraud, £4 disappears because of tax avoidance but this thread is about lazy people not people avoiding tax

      Anyway, for me personally it would be hypocritical to go on about tax avoidance because given half a chance I would love to find a way of giving up less of my hard earned cash for incompetent politicians to fritter away

  17. avatar
    Darius Mikulenas

    I think the topic implies that working fewer hours means one is lazier that his or her counterpart that is putting in overtime. It is not true on many levels and history has proven that. Remember Henry Ford? He reduced working hours, introducing the standardized work week and doubled his the employee wages. The result? Output, sales and overall profit has soared.

    More hours spent at work does not equal more work done. It is how you spend the time at work that matters. New research is being produced on a regular basis, looking into why we work better at certain hours and not others, how sleep works and how it affects our productivity etc. The overall theme of that work in relation to the link between length of the workday and result produced seems to point towards ‘less is better’. The basis for such belief is solid enough that a Sweedish city has embarked on an experiment to see if a 6 hour work day is will lead to better or at least no lower output than an 8 hour workday.

    Europeans aren’t lazy (at least not all of them), they work smarter rather than harder and produce more output in less time. The time they save they spend being with those they love and doing things that fulfill them. This way work does not become drudgery and life stays interesting. An equilibrium is reached between work and personal life.

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      @ Paul X:

      Well, you better start working your butt off if you want to escape the fate our government has in store for you. You have bitten on their mantra of lazy good for nothing Brits, when the truth is, they in our Commons and Lords are the lazy good for nothings.

      Here are a few facts you and the rest of Europe should know about our government.They are wilfully killing our people in their thousands by withdrawing benefit from the sick and disabled. So far they have put to death 10,600 people last year alone according to what I am reading.

      You can hear and read all about it. Right here.

      And here are a few faces to remember they look just like you and me. So, keep working hard until you too drop from exhaustion. And when you do, you will be left to face starvation by the state who is presently taking your money telling you when times are hard and you can no longer work, they will pay your bills. It’s all in the insurance dear. And you are taking their side against yourself and your family when they reneged on the deal to us all when deciding to foot the gambling debts of the financial sector. And you are happy with that?

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      Somehow, I missed adding the one that tells it directly. So here it is.

      Now why are the Human Rights assessors in Europe not doing something about this tragedy? Cameron refusing to take the money from Europe to feed our vulnerable is a deliberate act in inhumane deprivation. Why is he not standing in a court along with those in his government who are colluding in this torture? Ian Duncan Smith comes to mind.

    • avatar
      Paul X

      Yes Catherine, I have seen those stories before and like most normal people they disgust me

      But could you not put another “spin” on the story and say that every person who is claiming benefits they are not entitled to is contributing to the deaths of these people?

      As usual it is more about how someone presents things rather than the actual facts

  18. avatar

    I think we are.I migrated from Kazakhstan to Germany and actually,the so called hard-working-Germans ain’t hardworking at all.They just focus on work for 8 hours, but that should be a standart.You can socialize when you have break.At work you’re supposed to work.If you get paid ,while you are actually not working, that makes the products more expensive than calculated and brings your company unexpected losses or it won’t be able to sell it at all…cause other’s products are cheaper

  19. avatar

    What about other countries- not france? And even in france- mostly people work many extra hours and very efficient and with high quality.Highly disagree. Know a few north americans who just work but think they re the greatest. Efficiency? no not really sorry. I am sure there are orhers tjough. I dont think you can judge a continent in general. There are always all kinds of people.

  20. avatar
    Maheswar Deka

    Some people are in born lazy while the rest are smart.The lazy people should not be given employment that is risky to perform. In deed, right persons should get right places. For a reason or another some unfit persons get jobs where they are not fit.The appointing authority must assess the performance of a person before he is given a government job.

Your email will not be published

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Notify me of new comments. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More debate series – Debating Asia-Europe View all

By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies on your device as described in our Privacy Policy unless you have disabled them. You can change your cookie settings at any time but parts of our site will not function correctly without them.