Economic crises bring forth a great deal of nonsense. One of the most frequent bits of such nonsense is the idea that the countries in crisis in the eurozone are full of idle people, while the countries that are not in crisis are full of hard-working ones.
This, it so happens, is the reverse of the truth. Indeed, if one went by the hours worked on average by each worker, one would conclude that the fewer hours people work, the less crisis-prone will be the country.
Here is a relevant chart for the eurozone, which comes from the Conference Board database I have frequently used. The reader will note that the crisis-hit countries are in the middle or right of the chart. (I have excluded former communist countries, which have somewhat different characteristics: most are much poorer than those listed below. But, again, the people in crisis-hit ex-communist countries, such as Estonia and Latvia, tended to work long hours.)
Of course, there ought to be no relationship between the propensity to crisis and hours worked per person. Similarly, there need be no relationship between rates of economic growth and hours worked per person. The latter determines the level of output, not its growth. Whether people take six weeks of holiday or none is a matter of personal and social preference about how one wants to consume one’s wealth.
Here, by the way, is a similar chart for a wider set of industrial countries. You will see that people in the US and Japan – both crisis hit – work long hours, too. Indeed, you can again see that the greater the hours worked by each worker, the more likely the country is to be in crisis: again, the crisis-hit countries are all in the middle or the right of the chart.
Again, I am not suggesting this is cause and effect, though it is not impossible to think of a connection: people may work long hours because they feel poor, which also encourages them to borrow too much. Some think this is part of what happened in the US.
Beware idle moralism. It is an intellectual trap.