Anti-Greek Chorus Needs a Reality Check

German households owe more than harder-working Greeks.

May 21, 2010

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GreekChorus-1While it’s certainly true that the Greek debt crisis puts the spotlight on what Americans call “entitlements” and what the rest of us call the welfare state, the perceptions may not quite cleave to reality. Intrepid economic blogger Mark Thoma, an economist at the University of Oregon, points to two stats that undermine the anti-Greek chorus in Germany, among other places.

One is that Germans (and Britons) actually have higher proportions of household debt, as measured by GDP, than do Greeks (and Italians). See the chart below.

The other is that Greeks actually work longer hours than Germans. In fact, among OECD countries, they put in more time than anybody but Koreans and work 17.5 weeks (or 690 hours) more than Germans. The Germans, however, are in good company, with the Dutch, Norwegians and French.

As for Canadians, we work five hours less per year than do Australians – and about 65 hours less than Americans. The interactive map from the OECD is here.


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