From the Annals of Greek Mythology

In light of the recent Deutsche Bank study claiming that Southern Europeans are ‘richer’ than their German counterparts due to higher levels of home ownership in the Mediterranean countries, it is necessary to highlight some important facts that have not adequately been discussed in the context of the Eurozone crisis. I compiled these statistics over a year ago before the crisis began to spread to Italy, Portugal and Spain. This data, I think, serves to dispel some of the myths pertaining to the condition of Greek workers (I have yet to look at the data for Italy, Portugal and Spain). While this is not designed to draw attention away from the problems of clientelism and patronage that plague the Greek public sector, its intention is to emphasize that it is precisely these problems of clientelism and patronage – initially rooted in the forms of elite accommodation first set up by the military dictatorship and the monied elite back in the late 60s – and not an overly generous welfare state, or, for that matter, lazy and profligate Greek workers that is at the root of the Greek problem. Reform is needed, but austerity is not the answer. Here are some basic facts on Greece taken from the OECD statistical database:
1. Annual hours of work:
On average, Greek workers work 2,120 hours per year (2008 figures) compared to 1,430 in Germany. This breaks down to 43.7 hours a week versus 43.0 hours in the UK, 41.7 hours in Germany and 40.8 hours in the Netherlands. Numbers refer to those in full-time employment.
 
2. Average Gross monthly wage:
Greek workers earn on average 803 Euros per month compared to the lowest wage of 1,400 euros in the Netherlands.
 
3. Pensions:
Greek pensions amount to approximately 25% of Belgian and 20% of Dutch average pensions
 
4. Public Sector Wages
Public sector workers in Greece have been subjected to 30% wage cuts since 1990 before the austerity drive.
 
5. Unit labour costs growth (2010 figures):
Unit costs of labour in Greece have declined by 3.4% compared to a decline of 1.2 in the UK and an increase of 0.7% in Germany
 
6. Labour Productivity
Labour productivity per hour worked[1] (2010): Greece – 77.8 compared to the Eurozone average of 100
Labour productivity per person employed (2010)[2]: Greece: 94.8 compared to 106.6 (UK) and 105.3 (GER)
 
7. Public expenditure on labour market policies (2009)[3]:
Greece: 0.909 compared to 2.519 in Germany and 2.868 in Netherlands
 
8. Income inequality[4]
Greece (5.6), EUR (5), Norway (3.4), UK (5.4). The higher the number the greater the inequality.
 
9. Expenditure on social protection (% of GDP):
Greece 27.9
UK 29
Germany 31.3
France 33
NL 31.6
 
What these figures seem to tell us is that Greek workers work longer hours, receive lower wages and are entitled to smaller pensions upon retirement than their Northern European counterparts. These figures should put into perspective the decontextualized criticism that Greeks can retire at age 50. Perhaps; but only after working more hours for less pay and receiving a comparatively meagre pension at the end of the day. Greek labour practices are relatively unproductive (labour intensive rather than capital intensive) and the Greek state spends much less on labour market policies such as re-skilling compared to Northern European countries. Income inequality is higher (but not much higher than in the UK) and expenditures on social protection and welfare are significantly lower than other Northern and Western European countries.
 

 


[1] Gross domestic product (GDP) is a measure for the economic activity in an economy. It is defined as the value of all goods and services produced less the value of any goods or services used in their creation. GDP per hour worked is intended to give a picture of the productivity of national economies expressed in relation to the European Union average. If the index of a country is higher than 100, this country level of GDP per hour worked is higher than the EU average and vice versa. Basic figures are expressed in PPS, i.e. a common currency that eliminates the differences in price levels between countries allowing meaningful volume comparisons of GDP between countries. Expressing productivity per hour worked will eliminate differences in the full-time/part-time composition of the workforce.
[2] Gross domestic product (GDP) is a measure for the economic activity. It is defined as the value of all goods and services produced less the value of any goods or services used in their creation. GDP per person employed is intended to give an overall impression of the productivity of national economies expressed in relation to the European Union (EU-27) average. If the index of a country is higher than 100, this country’s level of GDP per person employed is higher than the EU average and vice versa. Basic figures are expressed in PPS, i.e. a common currency that eliminates the differences in price levels between countries allowing meaningful volume comparisons of GDP between countries. Please note that “persons employed” does not distinguish between full-time and part-time employment.
[3] Expenditure on labour market policies (LMP) is limited to public interventions which are explicitly targeted at groups of persons with difficulties in the labour market: the unemployed, the employed at risk of involuntary job loss and inactive persons who would like to enter the labour market. Total expenditure is broken down into LMP services (category 1), which covers the costs of the public employment service (PES) together with any other publicly funded services for jobseekers; LMP measures (categories 2-7), which covers activation measures for the unemployed and other target groups including the categories of training, job rotation and job sharing, employment incentives, supported employment and rehabilitation, direct job creation, and start-up incentives; and LMP supports (categories 8-9), which covers out-of-work income maintenance and support (mostly unemployment benefits) and early retirement benefits.
[4] The ratio of total income received by the 20 % of the population with the highest income (top quintile) to that received by the 20 % of the population with the lowest income (lowest quintile). Income must be understood as equivalised disposable income.

 

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