Home > Uncategorized > People in France and Germany work much less than in the U.S

People in France and Germany work much less than in the U.S

from Dean Baker

The NYT had an article reporting on how the Pew Research Center had discovered work done by the Economic Policy Institute for a quarter century (the middle class is hurting). At one point the piece compares the United States with France and Germany:

“The United States, including the middle class, has a higher median income than nearly all of Europe, even if the Continent is catching up. The median household income in the United States was $52,941 after taxes in 2010, compared with $41,047 in Germany and $41,076 in France.”

When making such comparisons it is important to note that people in Europe work many few hours than people in the United States. Five or six weeks a year of vacation are standard. In addition, these countries all mandate paid sick days and paid family leave.

According to the OECD, the length of the average work year in the United States in 2015 was 1790 hours. It was 1482 hours in France (17 percent fewer hours) and just 1371 hours (23 percent fewer hours) in Germany. While these comparisons are not perfect (there are measurement issues) it is clear that people in these countries and the rest of Europe are working considerably fewer hours than people in the United States in large part as a conscious choice. This should be noted in any effort to compare them.

  1. robert locke
    May 3, 2017 at 10:54 am

    Since I have lived in Germany and the US for extended periods and have family living in both countries, I can say that the one big factor separating working people in Europe and America is not just shorter working hours and paid vacations, but income security, which means you find fewer people walking around talking to themselves on the streets because of nervous anxiety brought on by insecurity in Germany and France than in the US

  2. May 3, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    i used to have relatives in switzerland. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massif_Central we used to go over there. i had one job making raclette cheese up above timberline near evolene/zermatt. they also didnt pay me what they said–because i had room and board. they charged me for that so i only got paid half. i dfidnt worry about uit–they were poor people too.
    i’ve met dean baker in my neighborhood. very few people in my area work 1770/hrs yr.

  3. Leslie E Nulty
    May 3, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    This data should be amplified by additional factoids: a) productivity comparisons eg., GNP or National Income/hours worked (to the extent the latter can be relied on – there’s a great deal of “off the clock” work in the US); and b) the wider income distribution in the US,

  4. Michael R-M
    May 6, 2017 at 8:52 am

    This compares after tax income. It should be adjusted for the cost of services bought privately and the cost of similar services paid for out of taxes – eg education and healthcare.

  5. May 6, 2017 at 9:56 am

    This is not a valid comparison without consideration of government services provided in France and Germany vs. the United States. For example, the cost of health care in France and Germany is half that in the US. And as Robert notes, this and other government support increases income and job security in France and Germany compared to the US.

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