Why the Greeks Work the Most and Produce the Least

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The “lazy” Greeks and their imploding economy, right?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past, uh, five years or so, you’ve probably heard about Greece’s financial troubles. Which means you’ve unfortunately seen the word “Grexit” thrown around more than any being would care to admit.

Grexit, of course, refers to the notion of Greece seceding from the European Union—a move many pundits thought was possible, or even likely, as the nation struggled to repay its debt obligations. But thanks to Prime Minister Alexis Tspiras’ eventual decision to agree to an unpopular but apparently necessary debt restructuring, a Grexit has been avoided for the time being. Still, it remains to be seen whether Greece will rebound or the can has simply been kicked down the road. Only time will tell.

So Greek’s debt crisis—that’s totally because all of the country’s workers are lazy sacks of shit, right?

Not so much. (But it is true they get a lot of paid time off.)

For starters, Greeks actually work longer hours than most other folks—by a longshot.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Greek workers put in an average of 2,109 hours a year—which works out to a little more than 40 hours each week. (Remember, most people take vacations and put in 0 hours at least a few weeks a year.) On average, workers across the globe log 1,749 hours a year (which works out to about 33.6 hours a week).

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Still, many Greeks earn less than their worldly counterparts. And a lot of them are forced to work part-time jobs. Though much of its aging population works in the tourism industry—Greece is spectacularly beautiful and is a destination sought by many, after all—an astonishing 53.4 percent of the nation’s youth are unemployed. And that figure probably isn’t an ingredient in the recipe for an economic boom.

So what of the Greeks who are lucky enough to have steady gigs elsewhere?

As could be said about virtually every other country, it appears industries in Greece could be a bit smarter. For example, a ton of Greek farmers sell their olives and olive oils to Italian businesses. Those companies then mix their wares with those of the Greeks, branding them as items “produced in Italy”—which sell. (Who buys Greek Olive Oil, anyway? Well, apparently a lot of people. Just check out this article in the Olive Oil Times—bet you didn’t know there was such a publication.) The takeaway? Greeks: Be proud of your olive oils, and market accordingly.

That said, Greek workers aren’t necessarily known for their penchant for following rules and laws. Rumor has it that many folks do their best to avoid paying taxes—and even try their darnedest to not have to work at all. (Who could blame them?)

Quite the life, eh?

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But it’s not as though the Greek government is making it any easier for those working. Case in point? The country’s milk regulations, which make it unnecessarily hard for folks who trade in dairy products to make good money. Apparently Greece loves exporting its proverbial bread and butter rather than using it to boost its own economy.

How does the Greek economy get solved? What’s the answer?

Maybe there isn’t one. Even the best financial minds have proven to make the wrong decisions time and again.

The takeaways for other countries?

For starters, laws should encourage business growth—not stifle it. (Since 2009, 25 percent of the businesses that opened in Greece have been forced to shutter their doors. Think about why businesses choose to incorporate in Delaware.) And unemployment that affects even any sizeable chunk of the younger generation should be seen as a crippling problem that needs to be addressed immediately. (Here’s looking at you, Uncle Sam.)

If there were an exact science to economics, we’d all be rich. Still, we can all learn from the experiences of others—good and bad. Which is how progress occurs.

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