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Monday, 10 July, 2000, 10:29 GMT 11:29 UK
Do Europeans work too hard?

Reports suggest that in the ever more hire-and-fire work market that follows globalisation, many Europeans are nervous about using their holiday entitlement from work for fear of finding someone else will be in their chair when they come back.

There are exceptions though; the European parliament, in plenary session this week in Strasbourg, has decided to dispense with Fridays because so few people were turning up to work there.

Our Europewide debate asks: Do Europeans work too hard? Listen to the audio, and tell us what you think.

We brought together Ana Romero of El Mundo newspaper - she was taking a few days in her home town of Cadiz, and also back home for a few days in Budapest, journalist, Valeria Toth, a journalist who's normally based in London.

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments belowl


Your reaction

Life is not only work, work, and more work, there is also family to consider as well as other important things in life. One must work to eat, of course, and lazy people should not get something for nothing, at the expense of the worker or taxpayer. However, no one who does a good job should have to worry about being replaced just because they take a vacation.
Richard, USA

It's a matter of choice. Anyone can reduce the number of hours they work by taking a pay cut. Just don't pretend you can work less for the same pay. Europeans have a lot of catching up to do if they are to compete effectively in the global economy. Most Americans I know get only two weeks paid vacation each year. They know the real meaning of work hard/ play hard. Europeans are working longer because they know they have to change. They cannot forever rely on restrictive practices and protectionism.
John, UK



Oh, I do long for the weeks off and the 30-hour working week of my relatives

Jason Jurkynas, USA
The answer to the question is no. I had to explain to my European relatives this Spring that, yes, this is the only two week holiday I will have in the year 2000, and yes it is mandatory for me to work 40 hrs per week and that's just at the office. Oh, I do long for the weeks off and the 30-hour working week of my relatives. I'd trade places any day!
Jason Jurkynas, USA

I think we all should work hard and try to do a good job but please don't let us become like the US. True, their economy is ahead of ours but I think that Americans are still generally more afraid than Europeans and they fear to lose their jobs if they do not perform. The boss here has so much more power over people than in Europe - to me it is an infringement of my freedom. The whole US society, starting with high school, is aimed at producing people that are extremely efficient - not critical, independent thinkers. However, life is not only about efficiency and work. I like Europe as it is. It allows people to work AND to have time for other things (family, dinners, books). That is what I call freedom!
Ann Hagemann, USA/ Germany



I have noticed that in general, Europeans are far more productive and innovative than in Britain. Being British myself, I find that shameful

Mark, Germany
Having worked in Belgium, Ireland, Germany and Britain, I would say that the UK has the highest risk of dirty tricks at work than in the other countries of Europe. It is very difficult in Belgium to get rid of incompetent people and almost impossible in Germany due to the enormous strength of the unions. In fact serious debate is going on about adopting a 32 hour week. All mentioned countries have more Bank holidays, Sunday closing except Ireland and minimum wages. But it is the quality of work that counts not quantity and I have noticed that in general, Europeans are far more productive and innovative than in Britain. Being British myself, I find that shameful.
Mark, Germany

We work too hard and too long without questioning why and for whom. The working week should be cut to 30 hours and people with children should be able to negotiate their hours to suit their family lives. We should be entitled to more holidays and in short, quality of life should come before company profits. This is especially the case here in London as we get the worst deal of all and see precious little for our efforts. Rents are too high, public transport is a mess and prices are through the roof. This long hours working-culture is bad for everyone.
S Bhatti, UK

You're kidding, right? France has a 35-hour working week, Germany and the Benelux countries have extensive vacation packages and I won't even comment on the Southern siestas. There is a reason your economies have trailed ours, and it isn't a result of "industrial espionage".
Greg Rosoff, USA

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30 Jun 00 | Europe
French EU presidency: The agenda
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