Germans 'take too many holidays'

2003

Germans take too many holidays and should increase their working hours, according to the country’s economics and labour minister.

"In terms of vacation time, public holidays, and working hours, we have without doubt reached the limit," Wolfgang Clement said in an interview with Stern magazine.

"Anyone who compares our holiday calendar with that of other countries can really start to worry."

"It's remarkable that growth next year will be increased by 0.5 per cent, just because of the way holidays fall," Mr Clement added.

Mr Clement said the German economy - currently on the brink of recession - was being damaged because workers were having too much time off. Unemployment, at 10.4 per cent, is at the highest level since German reunification, and Germany tops the European league table for public holidays.

Despite its reputation for hard work, Germans have an average of 43 days off a year. Thirteen of these days are public holidays, with some regions having up to 17 holidays. Austrian and Spanish workers each receive an average of 37 days off.

Germans also have one of the shortest average working weeks in the EU at 35 hours.

In contrast, British workers have eights days public holiday and their French counterparts 11 days. According to a survey in December 2002, the average British workers puts in 43.6 hours a week, with one in ten spending 61 hours a week or more at work. In addition, British workers are entitled to only 20 statutory days holiday a year

But Mr Clement’s remarks earned a rebuke from the head of the Catholic Church in Germany, Cardinal Karl Lehmann. Many of Germany's public holidays celebrate traditional religious festivals.

The cardinal said getting rid of holidays would "have a damaging impact on the social climate".

Germany had the slowest growth in Europe last year, at a mere 0.2 per cent, with zero growth between October and December.

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