The stereotype of lazy southern Europe and the hard working North is just not reflected in the data. We came across this BLS data set over the weekend which was very enlightening and, in part, smashes this widely held generalization.
First, a couple caveats. It is macro data — total number of hours worked in an economy divided by the number of people employed –, may be subject to measurement errors, doesn’t take into account productivity per worker, and ignores deleterious labor policies that may contribute to unemployment.
Nevertheless, the data and charts below show that the average number of hours worked for an employed person in Italy – 1,778 hours in 2010 – is 25 percent higher than that of Germany’s 1,419 hours. The French are not far off. The average number of hours worked by an employed person in France was 339 hours less than in Italy, or Italy’s average hours worked was 23 percent higher than France. Surprising, no?
The data also interestingly shows that Ireland’s average number of hours worked increased dramatically from 2009-10, increasing by over 7 percent. The market seems to like it as Ireland’s bonds have been some of the best performing in the world since July with their sovereign spread over 10-year German bunds tightening more than 500 basis points.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have data for the rest of the European periphery.
(click on chart and table for better resolution)