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Merkel tells southern Europeans to work longer

Published: 18 May 2011 11:15 GMT+02:00

In the light of the eurozone financial crisis and the billions of euros of aid being paid out by Germany, Merkel said on Tuesday evening her reservations were not only about the need to avoid increasing debt.

“It is also about not being able to retire earlier in countries such as Greece, Spain, Portugal than in Germany, instead everyone should try a little bit to make the same efforts – that is important,” she said at a political event for her conservative Christian Democrats in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

The official German retirement age is in the process of being raised from 65 to 67 in order to keep more people in work and paying taxes, for longer. German employees are entitled to at least 20 days holiday a year.

“We cannot have a (common) currency and one gets lots of holiday and the other very little. That does not fit together in the long term,” she said.

The current Greek retirement age of mid- to late-50s is to be raised to 65 for men this summer as part of a package of changes to be introduced by the government this year.

Merkel made it clear she expected Greece and the other struggling eurozone countries to redouble their effort.

“Of course we want the euro, and of course we do not want (any country) to go bust, so to say, and that we are all pulled down. We cannot simply show solidarity and say these countries should simply continue as before.

“Yes Germany will help but Germany will only help when the others try. And that must be clear,” she said.

Merkel received a report on the potential economic effects of raising the German retirement age to 68 and 69 on Wednesday and said suggestions based upon it would be made in the autumn.

DPA/DAPD/hc

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

12:07 May 18, 2011 by FredFinger
Sure southern europe can coast while the gemans sweat, they're doing it now and they've done it for thousands of years. If theres a problem the germans will just have to work a bit harder and retire a bit later.
12:13 May 18, 2011 by ame64
The Germans and people living in Germany have to work longer to pay the high taxes and living costs.

There is really not much of a choice here.

Maybe the Merkel should as herself why most products are more expensive in Germany compared to the rest of europe.

We dont want to work more -- we have to !
12:19 May 18, 2011 by Gilly58
Strange...and I thought that it was the Germans that were always on hollybobs.
12:48 May 18, 2011 by TrueFinn
Do I sense Merkel coming closer to the True Finns of Finland?
13:00 May 18, 2011 by cobalisk
It was a political event, it was telling the base what they like to hear.

In other words, nothing has changed. These are remarks made to the base, this is not the basis for policy. Merkel knows the retirement age in Greece is being lifted already so it was not like she was making fresh demands at an international conference.

This is not an indication of anything, its just the usual crowd pleasing bit.
13:11 May 18, 2011 by wenddiver
Oh my God, what was that?? Millions of Greeks knocking over Uzo bottles to go to work!!! That's all it took, Angie just had to suggest they go to work!! Why didn't they think of that before!!!

Shut up and pay the bills, you wanted an EU and everybody knew you would have to pay for it. In fact you might want to work more yourself, you have to pay for the Irish Tiger, the booming constructon of Spain and centuries of Portugese efficiency.
14:23 May 18, 2011 by LecteurX
I hope The Local (aka "Germany's worst media ever") made this up. In Spain (I don't know about other countries), legal retirement age is already 65, and government has been pushing for an increase to 67 for months already, if not years. Sadly, they have to go through a democratic process to achieve this, and can't do it just by snapping their fingers to please Mrs Merkel's condescending views. They're doing it even if someone has yet to demonstrate what's the point of forcing people to wait till 67 until they can retire when you already have nearly 20% unemployment...

Then of course, the usual idiots are on already, falling over themselves to out-dumb each other. My God, FredFinger, you can't make this up. Please read a book or two and see for yourself what was achieved in Southern and Northern Europe in the last "thousands of years".
14:37 May 18, 2011 by FredFinger
In northern europe quite a bit was achieved LecteurX. In southern europe in the last few centuries not so much.
15:06 May 18, 2011 by pnblank
Why, madam, you are absolutelky right when you say ¦quot;We cannot have a (common) currency and one gets lots of holiday and the other very little. That does not fit together in the long term,¦quot;. That's indeed discrimination at best! While you're at it, please update the Portuguese minimum wages to German standards, would you? We would very much appreciate it. You see, minimum wage in Portugal is 470 euros/month. I'm sure anyone earning minimum wage in Portugal will have a few doubts about giving up a couple of days holidays or retiring later and would likely tell you to shove your autocracy where the sun doesn't shine.
15:13 May 18, 2011 by MonkeyMania
I foresee the break-up of the Euro before Merkel gets what she wants. It appears Merkel wants a German version of Europe and under the guise of protecting the Euro -which is mainly for Germany's benefit- is forcing cultural changes on other countries. It is a question of lifestyle. Germans work longer for sure but they also spend a lot more on consumer goods and pay higher taxes for infrastructure within Germany. Not everyone wants what Merkel's vision of Europe should be. Look at how many Germans retire in these southern countries in order to live in a more relaxed culture. Sure, the EU would be a far more efficient place if it was all like Germany, but I wouldn't want to live in it. I always thought the EU was a community that lived and let live and was there for the greater good and not just the good of Germany and Germany's need for the Euro enabled export economy.
15:21 May 18, 2011 by DoraPT
As @cobalisk said, "It was a political event, it was telling the base what they like to hear". But the problem is when people vomit things without knowing what they are saying.

¦quot;We cannot have a (common) currency and one gets lots of holiday and the other very little. That does not fit together in the long term,¦quot; she said". Really?? Everything is different but know we should have the same holidays and retirement ages. Ok, so let´s first raise the salaries in Portugal (pressures from the EU liberals makes them the lowest in Europe), let´s low the taxes (our VAT is 23 %, ad EU wants it higher, 25%), let's low the energy costs and let's start producing goods that EU doesn't allow us to produce because France and Germany should be the ones doing it. I could go on and on...Then I wouldn't mind accepting to reduce portuguese statutory holidays from 22 to 20 days (two days more you bastards!!!) or to raise the retirement age from 65 to 67. What this liberals don't say is how they will manage to force the economy to absorb this people when the same economy rejects them when they are 50 because they are too old... then we will hear the same people saying the the Governments cannot support to pay unemployment benefits for so much time to too may people and the result will be more and more poverty between senior citizens.

I see a bright future for all of us... Continue the good work!!
16:00 May 18, 2011 by wood artist
It is possible to argue both sides of the Euro question, but the outcome for countries like Greece doesn't change. If they withdrew, the Euro would go through a period of shaking out, and the value would clearly fluctuate wildly. Personally I suspect when the dust settled, it would return to about the same place it is today, but it wouldn't be fun along the way.

The Greeks, however, regardless of the currency, would be in more trouble than now, although they seem to refuse to understand that. Their own currency would sink immediately, and the cost of their borrowing would skyrocket. The country's bond rating would sink to "junk status" and their whole economy would collapse. Of course, no one in Greece wants to hear that, and so they simply choose not to listen. That doesn't make it untrue.

Germany, in my opinion, has done a good job of trying to stabilize the situation, offering help, but with the understanding that it's a two-way deal. If Greece is unwilling to make an effort, then...well, we're not going to save you. There is room within the Eurozone for differences, but not of this magnitude.

wa
16:49 May 18, 2011 by jmclewis
Angie you are correct, but the Greeks lied with the help of Goldman and others when they joined. If they do not reform they need to be asked to leave the EU.
17:00 May 18, 2011 by TRJ
Well said, Wood Artist.
17:06 May 18, 2011 by Dan Asta
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
17:21 May 18, 2011 by MfromUSA
I would be furious if I was paying to rescue Greece when their middle-aged southern neighbors get to sit on their butts while I work like a damn fool.

Reminds me of the easy money welfare system we have in the USA.

To fix it is simple............you want to eat, then you work. You want to go hungry, sit on your butt and do nothing to support yourself. Pretty soon you starve. Pretty soon you are out of the gene pool.

SIMPLE!

Ask Greeks who are here in the USA whether they can retire at age 55......
17:28 May 18, 2011 by Avidror
Actually, here in Spain we work more hours than the Germans. The real problem is the productivity of the worker, which is bigger in Germany; the Germans work less hours, but they work better.

It's in fact a matter of quality of the work, rather than of quantity of hours worked. Now please search for the program Svenska ögon regarding the video in which they parodied how the Spaniards usually work.
17:48 May 18, 2011 by Al uk
Mfromusa if only it was that simple.

Take a look at unemployment rates in various countries according to your post these people are lazy and feckless and should be left to starve.

What an idiotic post.
18:56 May 18, 2011 by DinhoPilot
Now that everything is good and smooth sailing, nothing like coming out and critizicing the other countries.

Schadenfreude for the others goodfreude for Deutschland. The truth is that in those countries people work more, have less vacations and benefits, although we have to admit these countries are less productive. It all also doesn't change the fact that Germany was more wise exploring the EU, while southern countries where only joyfull in getting cash. Mrs. Merkel should stop saying nonsense just to get up in polls. It seems the best way to gain german hearts is to be negative toward others.
20:07 May 18, 2011 by lordkorner
In Sardinia over the Easter hols , come afternoon all restaurants and pharmacies close up at the same time,what do you do if you're bleeding and hungry or just bleedin hungry. Five days in Villasimius and the tourists office refused to open .
21:04 May 18, 2011 by agarwaen
I've worked in Germany (Karlsruhe) and Greece, on the IT and the Banking sector. The stats don't lie:

https://sites.google.com/site/laborstatisticslinks/

(I uploaded the reference links to a google site, because thelocal thinks they're link spam)

- Greeks work longer hours than Germans

- Greeks, produce much less per work hour than Germans, because of an inefficient economy

- The retirement age in Greece until 2010 was 61, it will be 63 by 2015

- The median annual salary in Greece is around 22.000 euros before taxes (in 2009, wages were lower before 2004, around 17.000 euros per year)

- The minimum number of vacation days in greece is 20 days

- The current mnimum wage is 680 euros, before deductions (the actual minimum wage is 520 euros)

Most firms in Greece have employees working from 8:00 to 18:00 (when the economy was booming, longer hours were the norm). If anyone ever comes to Athens, leave a comment and perhaps you could even make a surprise visit at the firm around 20:00 and count the employees still there (btw noone gets paid overtime). The pension scheme and the public health plan is a joke. That's why even in the boom years, most qualified young Greeks emigrated mainly to the U.S.A., England, and Germany.

Greece has a huge public sector, budget-wise, mainly because of corruption (from which German firms have benefitted greatly btw, and that's why Greece is in the euro-zone, since it's one of Germany's main importers in the EU). Public workers account for about 10% of the workforce, but 40% of the economy (40% of the GDP) is in the public sector (see CIA world factbook). The cost of weapons and armaments accounts almost 4% of the GDP yearly (going to USA and Germany).

Greece's problem is rampant corruption in the public sector, large spendings in government programs, mainly over-budgeted technology imports and military spending, state owned enterprises that continuously run a deficit (to pay a few thousands government workers extremely large salaries) etc. The usual problems of a sick economy, an economy that Germany among others (Banks, public officials, politicians, big bussineses), was all too happy to foster as long as there was a profit. The thing is there still is a profit, the european aid (which 78% of Greeks don't want btw, because they don't have large bank deposits, government bonds, or even jobs) is borrowed at a handsome interest rate of first priority (it will get paid even if Greece has to default). All these years Germany was lending Greece money that was already getting back from imports, but made a handsome interest rate profit as well. Kind of like giving Greece a credit card to use at the Germany store. Northern Europe's surplusses are the South Europe's deficits.
22:26 May 18, 2011 by DOZ
Merkel's Russian accent is wearing thin.
23:35 May 18, 2011 by agarwaen
BTW some further facts from personal experience: my father in law recently "retired" at 65 with a pension of 420 euros per month. "Retired" is in quotation marks, because of-course, like all Greeks that aren't state-owned enterprise pensioners or dead, he is still working part time jobs (with no papers or social security benefits, ie in the underground economy) as a real estate Realtor and an electrician. My father had a similar story, but is not working currently since he's been dead for the past 2 years (I must apologize to Ms Merkel for that, it seems he's been slacking off recently).

And something else: there's also another problem that stems from government corruption (tax authorities corruption), and that's non-wage earners, that live at the expense of everyone else in Greece AND Germany. You see, non-wage workers in Greece, comprise 18% of the workforce, earn 45% of the workforce earnings, but pay 11% of the taxes (statistics from www.nbg.gr > publications > monthly economic outlook > May 20010)!!! The professions engaging in this rampant tax-evasion, are mainly doctors, lawyers, cab-drivers, small business owners and engineers. Even they though, probably work more than Germans (eg Cab drivers work 11 hour shifts, and doctors usually work 8 hours at a public hospital, and then 6 hours at their private practice) but then again, they are the only ones earning German salaries.

In short, in Greece everyone is f@#$ed, except for about 400.000 people ie a large part of non-wage earners, state owned enterprise employees (eg public energy company, national rail etc), Politicians and public officials, and Large Enterprise owners.

As a member of the larger, oppressed group, I'm kind of tired by the tripe that goes on and on at the local, and in the German public opinion in general.
00:40 May 19, 2011 by hrt1
Chancellor Merkel is talking about Greece's governmental budget deficit, but raising Greece's retirement age should not solve the problem.

If retirement age will be raised without increasing the number of jobs available, then Greece's unemployment rate should become higher.

I don't thing that Southern Europeans are lazy - they simply don't have enough jobs in their country.
08:53 May 19, 2011 by Chigozie Ohanweh
I tink people fail to consider d fact dat dis southern contries especially greece has long meddled in corruption, negligence n mismanagement of public fund. Dis are d main reason thier economy had failed. we all know dat wit out a watchful eye d economy can spill out of comtrol even contries like Britain d US n Germans proposed spending cuts to stabilize thier economies. i tink is a shame stabilizing greece is always d topic at d gathering of european leaders. so all d blames should go to d public office holders in greece n credit to those countries who had volunteerd to bail them out.
18:07 May 19, 2011 by Jack Kerouac
I agree that the people of the "bailout nations" should work longer hours to catch up IF they are actually loafing around as Merkle implies. However, the fault is not entirely theirs. Most of the blame is on the higher-ups, whose corruption and greed has crippled the country's economic infrastructure. These countries will never pay off their huge loans, who are we kidding?
23:32 May 19, 2011 by RedRover
Ain't never going to happen. Southern europe knows what life's about, northern europe only knows about keeping your face to the grindstone. So each is doing what they do best and northern europe gets the satisfaction of constantly upbraiding the south. But in the end the north will continue to pay for the south and thats the way it will continue.
01:58 May 20, 2011 by Rockentoten
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
18:18 May 20, 2011 by MarshaLynn
I have a really crazy idea. Here it is. How about you get rid of the idiocy of socialism. How about if you try a truly free society where you get to keep what you earn. No Big Brother with his hand in your pocket giving what you earn to that lazy bum over there who takes tons of holidays and retires early. What are you going to do when there just is not enough money to support everyone from cradle to grave? The USA is heading in that same crazy direction, but the resistance is building momentum. We are going to vote all the socialist idiots out of office with time. Please come get all our addle-brained socialists and let them live with you in Europe before they destroy this country. Once we get their way of thinking out of elected office, they will not want to live here anymore. Good.
20:49 May 20, 2011 by german99
@MarshaLynn

I agree with you. But that will also mean we will have to get rid of taxes altogether (which I would welcome very much) because if we don't, there will be no point, because the Government will keep spending what we earn, on rubbish.

The problem is, getting rid of socialism is NEVER gonna happen in the Socialist Empire Europe. Maybe I have to move to the USA....
21:44 May 20, 2011 by DanielS
As an eastern European citizen, I¦#39;m disappointed watching European dream going in reverse. For sure not Germany is to be blame. But there are too many others countries which just cannot keep the steps of Germany. And for sure, Germany helping entire Europe with money is not a durable solution.

Maybe euro, trust and common values will be consolidated on our continent after several decades. For the moment the horizon doesn¦#39;t show a united Europe, remain only hopes and patience, a lot of patience.
22:50 May 20, 2011 by melbournite
I dunno.. why dont you see if you can get your own people to work past 2pm on Fridays before preaching to others. By the way.. the global financial crisis wasnt cause by workers, it was by bankers and speculators
00:57 May 22, 2011 by Bishopbayern
You tell them angela!
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