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Are Europeans too lazy

HS Thomas
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Joined: May 15, 2002
Posts: 3404
What do Americans think as well ? Would they like a shorter working week and longer holidays.
The American economy is held up as a 'gold standard' which everyone else envies. But are Europeans working hard enough.
Is that long holiday in August worth giving up to improve the economy ? The British are considering having schools rotating around three 2-week end of term holidays, if I remember correctly.
I kind of think the long August holiday was worth it as a child - time to recharge batteries and start a new year with a fresh mind..
Mark Fletcher
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Joined: Dec 08, 2001
Posts: 897
Ive discussed working practices with my American friends when I was travelling in the US last year:
* All of the Americans that I talked with reckon they work longer hours that other countries, and that this is a contributing factor to being more productive.
* All of the Americans that I talked with reckon that the trade off for less holidays is better pay. This is true; While I was in the US it was clear to me that Americans get paid more than their foreign counterparts.
* A fair amount of the Americans that I talked to would sacrifice some of their pay for time off. In fact I got the impression that when their holiday allocation is used up, they would take unpaid time off for extra holidays, or use sick days.
* No doubt a dozen surveys can be submitted claiming that the Indians or the Japanese or the Americans or the Swedish or Country X are the most productive. Draw your own conclusion from that ;-)
IMHO I would agree that when you compare Europe *as a whole* to the Americans, we Europeans are a bit lazy. The EC has tried to impose the Working Directive that states that we should not work for more than 40 (or 48?) hours per week. Of course your employer makes you sign a waiver to say that you are opting out of this directive, but I digress ;-). But even within Europe there is wide disparity on working practices. Some countries have more holidays per year. Others have a tougher stance on working less hours.
However I argue that as you work more and more hours a week, this will not necessarily confer a productivity boost. The Law of Diminishing Returns has to kick in at some point. Is the worker who works a 40 hour week more productive than a worker who works a 60 hour or 70 hour week?
A good question to ask is: Where is the happy medium between working hours and time off? Or, where is the point of where working longer affects productivity?
Mark
PS: Isnt this something for Jobs Discussion?
[ January 03, 2004: Message edited by: Mark Fletcher ]

Mark Fletcher - http://www.markfletcher.org/blog
I had some Java certs, but they're too old now...
Axel Janssen
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Joined: Jan 08, 2001
Posts: 2164
I think one gets a distorted picture if just looking at the oficial figures.
Theoretically I have 40 hours week (lots of people have 38.5 or even less hour week on paper) and 30 days of holidays.

In practice people are working much longer and use part of the holidays for personal training or even to work for projects at home. If not, you are going to loose the job in an economy with 10% of unemployment.
The gap between working hours in theory and working hours in practice might currently create some nice save havens in public sector and big companies where trade unions still excert more power. But this will change over the next years for sure.

Once I saw strange scene, when I had picked up my sister, who works for a big company, from her office. She had to leave office because of working hour regulations. Outside in a bar she had a little talk with a manager about some pending issues of a project. Guy from trade union was in bar, too. He told them that they would get trouble for infringing against working regulations.

Long working hours do not result in high production. I have included some time management practices in my working style and will further follow this path. Really helps.
I see diference between american and german economy that americans tend to trust more in their future, which is reflected in high consumption rate.
Here the companies have *huge* problems to sell their stuff to locals. Its good for the consumer. I have bought high quality stuff from Windsor for the most ridiculous price yesterday . Unfortunatedly the prices for the software consulting/programming stuff of the companies I work for are under pressure, too. :roll:
[ January 03, 2004: Message edited by: Axel Janssen ]
John Dunn
slicker
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Joined: Jan 30, 2003
Posts: 1108
Well, Europeans certainly do give off the perception of being lazy, compared to the NYC standards of work, but that doesn't mean were not without envy, either. Funny, I hated my last company because it was too lax. I was afraid I'd lose my work ethic and be noticably handi-cap in the next joint I ended up working. I like working hard as long as there's no idiotic pressures to go along with it.

Axel, are you saying the the Americans have more of the following qualities?

hope (hp)
v. hoped, hop�ing, hopes
v. intr.
1.To wish for something with expectation of its fulfillment.
2.Archaic. To have confidence; trust.

faith (fth)
n.
Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
1.Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. See Synonyms at belief.
See Synonyms at trust.
2.Loyalty to a person or thing; allegiance: keeping faith with one's supporters.
3.often Faith Christianity. The theological virtue defined as secure belief in God
and a trusting acceptance of God's will.
4.The body of dogma of a religion: the Muslim faith.
5.A set of principles or beliefs.

If so, it makes me wonder if this had anything to do with the reactions to the recent war in Iraq as well. Recall that the Brits, made a courageous stand, in the face of mass danger against the Nazis. Faithful fools or true believers?
How 'bout us Americans? Are we hopelessly optimistic? Do the generations of poor & desperate folks that come here and survive, end up breeding faith, hope and ingenuity for the next generations; which is not to say that no one else has hope, faith or ingenuity. Does the ability to rise into the social class by merit provide the missing ingredient, (in - greedy - ent)?


"No one appreciates the very special genius of your conversation as the dog does."
Tony Alicea
Desperado
Sheriff

Joined: Jan 30, 2000
Posts: 3222
    
    5
Related to all this was a news item I saw recently in ABC News (or CBS, or NBC or CNN; not any other) that the USA is the ONLY
country (of the so-called 1st world) that DOES NOT have a federal law that mandates paid vacation.
ALL others (France, England, Germany, Japan etc) did. Some of them mandated between 4-6 weeks a year which I couldn't believe!
So by law, a worker does not have to have paid vacation in the USA. Of course virtually all companies give you one or more commonly, two weeks paid vacation a year at the start. Usually it goes up to three weeks after five years, or if you're lucky, after just three years.
And then there's the one that gave me and all its new employees (in 1985) three weeks paid vacation after the very first year (an exception).
I just found hard to believe that the USA did not have similar vacation laws as the rest of the "developed" world.
Axel Janssen
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Joined: Jan 08, 2001
Posts: 2164
John,
faith is better word.
But it is something that changes sometimes rather quickly over time. Remember, at the end of 80ties, there were books published in USA like "Age of diminished expectations" by Paul Krugman, or "Generation x".
Another example: Sweden had lots of problems in midth of 90ties and now economy is much better off.
Germany (not me) currently is at psychatrist. Some developments have shaken general confidence:
- We have fighted 5 years to get strict rules about public spending in EURO contract and now our politics are fighting for 2 years for not to pay the penalty, because we are infringing against our very own rules.
- There are much more investments for industries in czech republic or hungaria than in Eastern-Germany.
- International studies have shown that the cuts in spending for education have resulted in a worsening of education.
- the society knows that a wave of market oriented reforms is coming. That will result in less security for a lot of people. Not for me. I am on free market anyway.
Social mobility does exist here, too. Possibly much more than you might think.
And we had another record year of exports. So some people are working here.
But when anybody is saving money for fear of what will come, no economy can expand.
General outlook might be better next year.
Tony,
if you are using your holidays for search of new job, its not that fun, the holidays.
Axel
[ January 03, 2004: Message edited by: Axel Janssen ]
Tim Baker
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Joined: Oct 04, 2003
Posts: 541
The uk probably sits somewhere in between. We have the longest working hours in europe and an average is 3 weeks per year on entry level jobs. However we're moving towards europe on this because we are implementing new restrictions on working time.


Kim Jong II (North Korea's Dear Leader) said:Nuclear weapons don't kill people, people kill people.
Bela Bardak
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Joined: Jan 02, 2004
Posts: 179
Another possible factor in US and UK consumer spending is the rise in the value of houses in those countries. There was a piece in the Economist magazine this week which contrasted the growth in housing prices in the major industrialized countries since 1995 and since 1975. German housing prices have fallen about 30% in real (after inflation) terms since 1975. In those days German houses cost 3x what those in France did. Now they are about even.
In the US housing prices are about 30% higher than in 1975, and in the UK 128% higher. Both in real terms after inflation! So homeowners in those countries feel richer and spend more than their counterparts in Germany do.
I'm not sure what 'lazy' means in the European context. I do know that it can be much harder to work long hours in Europe than in the US. Stores in Europe close much earlier than in the US. Notoriously so in Germany, where for many years stores kept the same working hours as offices did (9-5 or whatever) and also opened Saturday morning. So working couples basically had to do all their marketing on Saturday moring. Quite a rush.
When I worked in Kansas City (for Sprint) I commonly worked 60-70 hour weeks. No problem because there were 24-hour supermarkets and Walmart ran a 24 hour department store/supermarket. In the UK (without a car) I'm hard-pressed to work more than a 45-50 hour week because of commuting time and getting in my necessary trips to the shops. And hours are lot looser in the UK than in Germany!
John Dunn
slicker
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Joined: Jan 30, 2003
Posts: 1108
After some more thought, I'd have to admit that some of what drives folks here (NYC at least) to work long hours is fear. There are plenty of people waiting in the wings, to take you job/position/responsibilities, if you start to slack. That can be good and can be bad. I guess its not so bad if everyone around you is doing the same thing. I can say this, most of my buddies - (that are doing well) - work hard. So it's not without reward either. Bars stay open to 4am in NYC, so even if you are working quite hard, there is still a good chance to party hearty.
-----------
Question to all of the folks from Europe:
Would you rather own a company in the US (with US workers) or in Europe with European workers? (And I don't really care about the actual workers, as much as the expectations of those workers)
Paul McKenna
Ugly Redneck
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Joined: Jul 08, 2000
Posts: 1006
So Bela Bardak = Alfred Neese??


Commentary From the Sidelines of history
Mark Fletcher
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Joined: Dec 08, 2001
Posts: 897
Originally posted by John Dunn:

-----------
Question to all of the folks from Europe:
Would you rather own a company in the US (with US workers) or in Europe with European workers? (And I don't really care about the actual workers, as much as the expectations of those workers)

Thats a hard one to answer, personally I have no experience of working in the USA so I cant comment. At first glance, it appears that it would be better to employ US workers as they are more productive. But at the same time I might have to pay more than what I would pay for a worker in Europe.
At the end of the day however I think most corporations are more concerned with the bottom line and this would explain the trend for outsourcing.
Definitely youre right John about one thing. When I was over in the States last year, I got the impression that Americans like to Work Hard and Play Hard. Also, if you factor in that, although Americans get given less holidays, they still get a lot of holidays (Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Independence Day, to name a few) which get added onto their total allocation, and this narrows the gap between the US and Europe.
Also: Working long hours may be a good thing for furthering your career, it might not sit so well with your spouse and children.
HS Thomas
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Joined: May 15, 2002
Posts: 3404
Originally posted by John Dunn:

Question to all of the folks from Europe:
Would you rather own a company in the US (with US workers) or in Europe with European workers? (And I don't really care about the actual workers, as much as the expectations of those workers)

I should think that really depend on what the company does.I'd believe that if it was a business laden with natural resources, plant and machinery or other tangible assets it may work particularly well in the US with US workers.
A really corny British idea may need home-grown British workers. I don't know about the rest of Europe.
Frank Silbermann
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Joined: Jun 06, 2002
Posts: 1387
There are so many fixed costs before becoming productive on a new project in a dynamic economy -- learning the problem, learning what was done before, getting to know the people you have to deal with -- that one person working fifty hours a week is probably going to be more productive than two people working 35 hours.
On the other hand, I personally do not have the endurance to work long hours regularly. Some people do; they get promoted above me and make more money.
I think what happens in America is that different companies develop different cultures according to their needs; different employers require different degrees of sacrifice. In order to keep people, those companies that make heavy demands have to pay more than those whose demands are less onerous. Employees and employers sort themselves out according to the employees' values and situation.
For example, a young man with no children might choose to work for an intense start-up with the hope of becoming rich; a man with debts and several children will moderate his ambition for the sake of security and a balanced lifestyle.
When the government allows employers and employees to specialize in this way instead of mandating a one-size-fits-all policy, that's an example of what we Americans call freedom.
Richard Hawkes
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Joined: Jan 28, 2003
Posts: 1340
Longer working hours are probably more "productive" only if you're on a factory line or in a service related industry. All the study and work guides I ever read said that creative juices tend to dry up after so many hours and mistakes become more common, so it must depend on the type of work being done.
In Korea they work long hours. We knock off about 6pm (just reduced from 6.30), yet most people stay in the office until 8, sometimes 9. When I leave at six someone will always ask where I'm going. When I say "going home" they look at me like I'm mad - why would I want to leave if I have no plans? Most of them use their PCs for gaming and chatting after hours, but they choose to stay because they don't want to be seen to be eager to leave. Until recently it was expected for workers to stay until your manager left, regardless of workload, and your manager would always leave late because he couldn't leave until his manager left, and so on... We have to work every other Saturday too and the fact that my boss and co-workers refer to non-working Saturdays as "holidays" still fills me with barely supressed rage! As far as I'm concerned weekends start on Friday night and finish Monday morning. Weekends are weekends, two days a week I shouldn't have to work, not effing holidays!
Richard Hawkes
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Joined: Jan 28, 2003
Posts: 1340
I hate long hours. Some people genuinely seem to thrive on them. Personally I'd give up more pay for more holiday (about 8 weeks a year would be a nice balance - or 6 months!) but that's not likely to happen.
Arjun Shastry
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Joined: Mar 13, 2003
Posts: 1874
Originally posted by Richard Hawkes:

When I leave at six someone will always ask where I'm going. When I say "going home" they look at me like I'm mad - why would I want to leave if I have no plans? Most of them use their PCs for gaming and chatting after hours, but they choose to stay because they don't want to be seen to be eager to leave. Until recently it was expected for workers to stay until your manager left, regardless of workload, and your manager would always leave late because he couldn't leave until his manager left, and so on... We have to work every other Saturday too and the fact that my boss and co-workers refer to non-working Saturdays as "holidays" still fills me with barely supressed rage! As far as I'm concerned weekends start on Friday night and finish Monday morning. Weekends are weekends, two days a week I shouldn't have to work, not effing holidays!

Do you work in India?


MH
Richard Hawkes
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Joined: Jan 28, 2003
Posts: 1340
Originally posted by Capablanca Kepler:
Do you work in India?
Not yet! What do immigrants to India work as anyway?
Jeroen Wenting
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Joined: Oct 12, 2000
Posts: 5093
Originally posted by Richard Hawkes:
Originally posted by Capablanca Kepler:
[qb]Do you work in India?
Not yet! What do immigrants to India work as anyway?[/QB]

probably the same as immigrants do anywhere in the world:
bellboy, maid, cook in exotic restaurants, IT consultant.


42
HS Thomas
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Joined: May 15, 2002
Posts: 3404
Frank Silbermann : When the government allows employers and employees to specialize in this way instead of mandating a one-size-fits-all policy, that's an example of what we Americans call freedom.
That's one way of looking at it!
Here's another.
One-size-fits-all Jeans/Wranglers/Lees. Put them on and sit in a tub of water to shrink-to-fit. Preferably a barrel of water so that one can stand in the goddam things. And that's what Europeans call liberty.
[ January 05, 2004: Message edited by: HS Thomas ]
Sadanand Murthy
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Joined: Nov 26, 2003
Posts: 382
Originally posted by Frank Silbermann:

I think what happens in America is that different companies develop different cultures according to their needs; different employers require different degrees of sacrifice. In order to keep people, those companies that make heavy demands have to pay more than those whose demands are less onerous. Employees and employers sort themselves out according to the employees' values and situation.

I remember at one of my client's in midwest, the company has a 7.75 hrs/day (38.75/wk) rule. However, the IT director of a department used to review the weekly timesheets of his employees. One such review revealed that some of the employees were putting in just 38.75 in a week. He was not happy, to say the least. His rationale for demanding that they work overtime? Well, it appears that that company (or at least that's what the sr. mgmt says) the employee's pay already factors in some percentage (don't remember the figure) for overtime. So, it is expected; otherwise, according to the mgmt, the employee is slacking off and is being overpaid. When they offered me a job and found out what their pay scales were I had no choice but to decline.


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