Sur la paresse

Another myth that you’ve identified in a recent piece of yours is the myth of the so-called “lazy mob.” We’ve heard numerous media refer to the Southern European peoples in particular as lazy, as unproductive and people who simply don’t work hard. What’s your response to these accusations?

Well, first of all, what is this notion of being lazy? It’s based on even racist kinds of stereotypes, the stereotype that people who live in cold countries work harder and people who live in warm countries like Greece and Italy don’t work very hard. But if you actually look at the real statistics, you will find that on average, a Greek worker works for 2,040 hours, this is from 2011, and this is 40 percent more than the Germans and 50 percent more than the Dutch. So who’s the lazy one? Italians work over 1,700 hours per year and that is 25 percent more than the Germans. So it’s based on this completely mistaken idea that they are lazy, but that’s not why countries like Greece and Italy have problems.

The problem in those countries is that they have lower productivity than Germany or the Netherlands; their workers produce less income even though the hours they work might be much longer. This problem of low productivity is not really the fault of the workers. It’s the fault of their capitalists and the government, because unless your capitalists and your government invest in productive machines, invest in research and development to develop new technologies, invest in infrastructure like roads and ports and so on, national productivity isn’t going to rise. So if it’s anyone’s fault, it’s the fault of Greek capitalists and the Greek government, not Greek workers. So I think that this story of lazy Greeks and Italians is just an excuse invented by people who don’t want to do anything fundamental about the problems with those countries in the context of the European Monetary Union, and it’s very unfortunate that this kind of groundless theory circulates and is so widely accepted. We have to really rectify this kind of misconception.

You can read the whole thing. It is this which is wrong with the “do more with less” cant and also with that academic advice that says you should be able to do anything, anywhere, under any conditions, if you are “serious.”




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