Southern European workers versus Northern European workers: 5 charts
from David Ruccio
Are Greeks and southern Europeans lazy free-loaders who deserve the austerity measures currently being imposed on them by their governments and European creditors?
That’s certainly the story that circulates, even among many otherwise right-minded individuals. But Kash Mansori has run the numbers and that’s now what he discovered.
He finds, for example, that southern Europeans tend to work more hours each year than northern Europeans and that, with the exception of Italy, the percentage of the population that is an active part of the labor force is generally similar to labor force participation rates in northern Europe.
In addition, some southern European countries, such as Greece and Portugal, had improvements in labor productivity roughly equal to northern Europe, while Spain and Italy, which did not run particularly large budget deficits, are the ones that lagged in productivity growth.
Finally, both social spending in general and old-age benefits have tended to be higher in the north than in the south.
A serious political economy of the debt crisis in southern Europe has to start, not with myths about work habits and government expenditures, but with capital flows into the south from the north, the financial crisis that began in the United States, and with the success of wealthy individuals and large corporations in some countries of southern Europe (remember, Spain was running a fiscal surplus prior to the crisis) to resist paying taxes to finance fiscal deficits.
Southern European workers—those who are employed and the growing ranks of the unemployed—understand that, which is why they are working so hard to overturn the Draconian austerity measures being imposed on them.