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February 23, 2010
Posted: 1320 GMT

Lufthansa pilots may have reported back to work at midnight, but labor unrest continues to roll across Europe Tuesday as French air traffic controllers are expected to go on strike.

Do Europeans have an outdated work ethic?

Half of Tuesday's flights at Orly Airport in Paris, France, were expected to be canceled, along with 25 percent of flights at Charles de Gaulle Airport, as a result of a planned strike by four civil aircraft staff, including air traffic controllers, for Tuesday through Saturday.

The action comes a day after German-based Lufthansa and its pilot's union agreed to suspend its standoff and return to the bargaining table. The suspension will expire on March 8, barring an agreement before then, both sides said in a Frankfurt labor court.

The industrial action has plunged much of the continent into chaos and it doesn't look like it will end soon.

We want to know what you think?

Do you think that Europeans have an outdated work ethic that makes them less competitive?

Filed under: Business •Quest Means Business

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vwe   February 23rd, 2010 1:52 pm ET

There is no such thing like an "European work ethic". Just go to Portugal, England and Germany. Small to medium city, small to medium company, let them produce something for you. I might be surprised by the huge difference in culture, quality and commitment to deadline and budget.

Jimmy p   February 23rd, 2010 1:58 pm ET

What we have forgotten is that workers have a second capacity. That of consumers!
Of course if the worker works more and is paid less his/her productivity goes up and the economy is more competitive.
But the same person will have less time and money available to consume, what his/her highly competitive and efficient neighbour has produced.
So it's always easy to blame it on whatever highly paid section of the workforce, but in the long run all are in for the same treatment in order to compete.
Yeah if you ask people on the street if the economy should be more competitive they will say yes. Tell them that they should revert to the standards of living of the Chinese and I'm not sure you'll get the same answer

J-c   February 23rd, 2010 2:05 pm ET

In Europe, people are living above their standard, days off and holidays do not bring a sane economy. Companies are not responsible for those staying out of work because of their health excuses, no work, no pay.
Social securities must be changed, people must ,once and for all look after their own and be responsible of their own life

Mr Taylor   February 23rd, 2010 2:10 pm ET

Oh come on, please give us a brake. The Europeans and Americans all have Strong work ethics. The problem is greedy corporations and governments that are in bed with them.

Some of the Europeans still have balls. If the people don't look out for the people, no one else will? It's all about the corporate profits, the profits, the profits! If corprations had their way, slavey would be legal. But since that's out of the question, let's move the jobs to the cheapest wages in the world. Who cares if that place happens to be China, a place where if you protest over any subject, you could be shot down. A place where they don't even play by the "so-call" Free trade rules. So now we're not competitive? PLEASE, What free man can complete with slave wages?

Bob Blevins   February 23rd, 2010 2:12 pm ET

No!! Europeans value work for what it should be, i.e., a means to an end. The end is a happy and healthy life-style. As an American living in Belgium, I can attest to the work ethic of Europeans in general. It's the Americans who have it ass-backwards.

vizi   February 23rd, 2010 2:24 pm ET

I dont think the labours are living in the past , they are just trying to better their jobs and save them , which is apt for any one to do. We will see that happening in US soon , protectionism will always stay , dosent matter how much we make the so called progress

Emil   February 23rd, 2010 2:41 pm ET

No their labor laws are what we should have here in the USA. This is slavery compare to them. We do not have labor law here we only worry about discrimination. I work for a company with about 60 workers. First year no vacation 2nd year 1 week and two for the rest. They told me when can I take them and just under special situation I was allowed to take two weeks together. Only twice I was able to do it in 10 years. No pension plan, 401k available but they did not contribute. Group health insurance was available but the company paid nothing. If I left on time my coworkers looked at me and asked don't you worry you will be fired. By the way I did not swiped the floor I managed the network. We are the most productive workers in the world, my foot we work 45-50 ours and get paid $40 that's all.

Nuno   February 23rd, 2010 3:00 pm ET

Bosses will not rest until they replace everyone with machines
And those that cannot be replaced will be HANDLED as machines.
We are going to new age of slavery, its just WORK and SHUTUP
And most people embark on what I call the "mud puddle theory"
Those who work like slaves 12/14 hours a day 6 or 7 days a week, no payed vacations no rights NOTHING they think that everyone should be like that, instead of the opposite.
But as in everything in life, reallity is a 2 bladed knife.
Slaves mean, less consumers, less spending less CHILDREN
I dlo believe that the golden days of western society are OVER.
Now... its again time... for the Lords and peasants

Fred   February 23rd, 2010 3:00 pm ET

This has nothing to do with work ethic, it has to do with maintaining a civil society. Marx so aptly said that class struggle is the nexus of all societies. Labour MUST maintain a balance of power between them and the ruling elites that own the means of production. The people in Europe have seen what the slide towards fascism can do to society and are watching it happen in the United States. Organized labour has been destroyed in the US and we see the carnage that is bringing. Low pay, no workers rights, no benefits, out sourcing of jobs. There is no such thing as a free market or the notion that a free market will solve all problems. An unfettered free market like we have in the US will concentrate wealth and ultimately enslave the workers. The Europeans understand that.

peter Douglas   February 23rd, 2010 3:08 pm ET

we can,t have the labour laws kicked out of the door because some CEO wants profits so he pocket some bonus,this is what is happening in Europe. workers are just fighting back at a system if not checked wan,ts to pay Chinese wages in order to make a profit.

Camille in Slovenia   February 23rd, 2010 3:11 pm ET

I agree with vwe, I am an American living in Slovenia and the work ethic here (being a former socialist country) is very different from industrious countries like Austria or Germany to our north or the laidback countries to our east and west. People here are pessimistic about what can be gained from work and considering the high tax rate and the amount of hurdles in the way of any one even attempting to reach high levels of success by mere hardwork, I cannot blame them.

If anything, I'd say European has an outdated socio-economic ethic. No more of this centuries old ruling class nonsense!

Jack   February 23rd, 2010 3:24 pm ET

I would not say it is a question of the work ethic – clearly that is strong in much of Europe. I would also agree with the comment from Bob that Europeans have a more healthy work-life balance (I too am an American living in Europe for the past 20 years).

However, I think the question is more on entitlement and attitude towards organized labor. I would definitely say it is a bit outdated to think that a union should be a guarantor of the benefits of an entire group; this defeats the purpose of the good work ethic in that mediocre performers are rewarded as well as the top performers. And when labor disputes arise, work-stoppages create havoc on a wide scale, whether in transport, health care, public services, classrooms... Unions do not realize the ill-will these actions create with the public at large.

Liam O'Shea   February 23rd, 2010 3:24 pm ET

Every human being deserves a decent summer holidays...
You end up with positive minded workers and thats good for your product base..

Ram   February 23rd, 2010 3:48 pm ET

Writing from India, a "third world" country, I couldn't agree more. The fact is that, for centuries, Europeans have got used to lopsided models of trade which favored them. Wealth from the so-called "less developed" countries ended up being sequestrated in the West. With the exception of Americans, who seem to work for their daily bread, most (West) Europeans have got used to a lifestyle which is way beyond their productivity and output. I've met several backpackers who work for 3 months and bum around for 9 months. Such a lifestyle is only possible in an over-valued economic system which prides itself on feeding unemployed under-productive members while denying productive sections their due. And when the rest of the world, as in Asia, copies the same model and works as hard as the 19th century Europeans, we get blamed for accepting "slave wages". (As Tom Friedman noted, an Indian professional is willing to work 35 hours a weekend which is something most Europeans find difficult in a week.) Grow up people and start working for a living!!

Steve   February 23rd, 2010 3:58 pm ET

If you've been working at a company for 10 years and this is how they treat you and you didn't leave, then I say you got what you deserved. As an American who joined the workforce after college, I figured out in the first year of employment that I didn't want to work in the US anymore, it took me another 2 years to make the move to Europe. Now I enjoy 6 weeks of vacation (from day 1) per year, great pension benefits and a much higher standard of living. If you want to continue to live in a country where the employers don't care about their employees, then by all means go ahead. But the American's have it backwards when it comes to work / life balance, Europe is far ahead of the States.

Chris   February 23rd, 2010 3:58 pm ET

Unions work ethics almost killed Great Britain in pre-Thather era.
Almost killed GM recently. Organized labor is not a solution.
Unions can not compete against cheap Chinese labor in globalization era. Fred – organized labor has not been destroyed in USA – it destroyed itself with Clinton's help (NAFTA).
By the way "fasci di combatanti" were unions. Word fascism is derived
from "fasci" – unions in Italian.

Eric   February 23rd, 2010 4:01 pm ET

Some do, some don't. The commentator who mentioned the small- and medium-sized business case is spot on. If the job is stimulating and rewarding, people will work hard to do a good job. If it's not, they won't. Sadly, low-skilled jobs are usually not stimulating or rewarding. These jobs are disappearing in western Europe, but our system makes these jobs far too cushy, and does not provide adequate incentives to leave such jobs and be retrained for something more useful. This is why we have so many strikes in Europe: people who have too few skills, have been rewarded far above their "contribution" and have bitterly resisted any change to this state of affairs, despite the fact that the writing has been on the wall for quite some time. They're resorting to more and more extreme measures to hold on, but the time would be better spent getting retrained.

Europäischer   February 23rd, 2010 4:02 pm ET

Firstly I would imagine that most Europeans like myself are eager to strike the right work life balance. Why surrender yourself needlessly to long hours, low pay, poor conditions and prospects?

Secondly when will we see a poll entitled:-

Do Europeans have a better standard of living?

Truth   February 23rd, 2010 4:25 pm ET

The hidden global government wants everyone to work like Americans.

Anand   February 23rd, 2010 4:39 pm ET

I am an Indian professional working in Europe for a few years now and must share that I am just amazed by the benefits an employee has out here. Most of that seems out of touch with reality and leaves employees with a sense of "entitlement" which I think is very dangerous since it almost tells them that if you do not want to work hard or smart, that is fine, if not the company, then, the state will take care of your wanting to take it easy in life, though you will not have the standard of living a hard/smart working person will have. Having said that, I also see that limited working hours and a huge basket of benefits does take the pressure off work significantly and the focus on high quality work is great. I find it amazing how the same project done in the US tends to get done in time but with a lot of "quick-fixes" coming in due a culture of haste, whereas in Europe, it usually takes longer than budgeted time but with a very high quality level. In India, it will get done on time, at much lower cost and at the quality level you specify, no questions asked, irrespective of how hard the employees had to work to get what you wanted and some of the employees will get extra benefits so its not slave labour as the West will imagine, though relatively, it is harder work for lesser pay/benefits, not because it is intended to be exploitative but simply because it is a much more competitive work environment. Overall, I do not think the state or the union or a company can easily regulate working hours; as far as the work gets done professionally and the employee has the flexibility, how does it matter if one works 60 hours one week and 20 hours the next or 40 hours each week. I think some de-regulation is required here, without employees losing rights. It has already happened in the IT/Consulting world where work flexibility is absolutely required to maintain sanity given the pace and competitiveness and it is high time, the old economies, catch up.

RN   February 23rd, 2010 4:54 pm ET

What a sickening sense of entitlement some people have. In America people get what they work (there are of course exceptions), and im not just talking about short term. You think those CEO's who earn so much money just spontaneously got the job? for the most part they either worked their butts off in school or they worked their way up the corporate ladder. if you arnt happy with 40 dollars an hour maybe you should have worked harder in school? European countries can manage to allow their job force to feel that sense of entitlement mostly because those countries arnt, for the most part, a force in the world economy. If the US decided to give all of our workers a few weeks off just for the hell of it, bad things would happen. if Sweden does it, no one cares. Everyone wants to make more money, but if you are doing a job that a trained monkey could do, you most likely dont deserve more money or more time off.

Bernard   February 23rd, 2010 4:58 pm ET

There is no problem with the work ethic in Europe if there even is a single work ethic in Europ or the U.S. fot that part.Although strikes these dayes are used to my jugment too quicly. But striking is a basic right off a worker, and ofthe the only thing a boss of a big corporation will lisen to. And for my part strikes and outher social and employment regulations are there to stay, they do the greathest good for the greathes many.
sorry for my bad English I'm not a native speaker.

John   February 23rd, 2010 5:05 pm ET

It is obscene that Americans should be asking this question when Americans imposed the current economic crisis on the rest of the world. Europeans do not have an outdated work ethic; the world has an outdated leader. Step aside, America. You have neither the moral nor even the economic authority to dictate policy to other nations. All you have is military muscle–and you won't even have that for much longer.

Bill Parsons   February 23rd, 2010 5:05 pm ET

Come on now...capitalism has failed as much as socialism !

No protection in the US and laughable benefits...and workers..both blue and white collar live in fear of being fired a few weeks before ..full retirement. This is criminal !

On the other hand ; if i compare the goold ol days of the 60's and 70's and even the 80's in the US that work ethic was the best. People worked hard...they were recognised and they also had fun at work. This is all vanished now.

The workers in Europe and the average man realised that this has got to stop. It cannot be million euro or dollar bonuses for those who created this mess. The people should not pay for the mistakes of those who created this fiasco.

AND NO !!! We cannot compare US to Europe. Even poverty is entirely different and cannot be compared.

But one day is clearly better in the US is that despite the big losses and uncertainty Americans smile and are still willing to take risks and hope for the best while the europeans..especially germanic (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) countries and many eastern...with a few exceptions look pissed..depressed...frustrated and ..gloomy !

Kris K   February 23rd, 2010 5:07 pm ET

Outdated work ethic is not bad or poor work ethic. Workers and worker's unions act (and react) as if they were still living in a pre european union era. Compared to a generation ago the way we conduct business has drasticaly evolved but not the worker's ethic or the union's outlook on how work is evolving. For many workers, holding on what was gained in the last few decades is much more vital than trying to adapt to new ethics and new work habits.

ozpat   February 23rd, 2010 5:08 pm ET don't want to know what WE think. You want people to support your anti-labour position because some people may be impositioned due to workers striking for their rights.
CNN stop acting as if you are an observer of events and admit that you are a tool of big business - and therefore an enemy of the working person and labour.

Indrah   February 23rd, 2010 5:28 pm ET

Given the unchecked power that employers have in the US, and the lack of recourse for workers that are treated unfairly, I'd say that work ethics in the United States are positively 18th century...

ozpat   February 23rd, 2010 5:29 pm ET

Respnse to Anand: Actually everyone i speak to and from my own experience admits that whilst there might be 'some' value in exporting work to india there isn't a productivity or financial gain for most companies due to lack of imagination, innovation and 'thinking outside the box' . You said it yourself " no questions asked" do what you are told whether it is the correct thing or know what the result of that is........'the same thing done over and over'. Really happy you don't want to take holidays in India.....too bad your lack of individuality willl always result in the 'same thing' and drive companies to give up on India as an innovation centre and simply exploit the labour pool - because that is apparently what you are advocating.

frank   February 23rd, 2010 5:32 pm ET

Quote: "In Europe, people are living above their standard, days off and holidays do not bring a sane economy..."

Fact is, those countries in/near the EU zone with the highest numbers of days off, the shortes working weeks and the longest maternity leaves (Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland) still have pretty stable economies and a high "happieness index" As a result, those countries have healthier job markets and better consumer spending compared to countries like Germany and GB where people work longer hours and have fewer holidays.

Having worked as people manager in both, Scandinavia and EUC, I think I know what I am talking about. What really needs updating, are ineffective decision making processes as well as laws that were once meant to secure people's jobs but that are now effectively keeping people out of work... (I am talking about France/Germany/UK)

windy   February 23rd, 2010 5:33 pm ET

I don't think the question is being framed correctly. Is it really that the European work ethic is stuck in the past? If so, it's a recent past, arguably still the present although it is being abandoned, where we at least pretended that workers should have rights. Or is it that companies want to regress even further in the past? Let's not talk as though a time when employers can treat their employers however they like, with no consequences, should be seen as some sort of newly innovated, golden vision for the future. It's old, old, old.

Don't get me wrong: competition, productivity, profits? All good things, but not if they come at the expense of the workers who make it possible. I realize there are certainly employees who are asking for too much; I also believe there are employers who are giving too little. Let's not demonize all of the labor strikes and conflicts without looking at them individually. It's convenient, especially for those of us who have a flight affected or are affected in other industries, but it's wrongheaded.

But that's my opinion.

Ralph   February 23rd, 2010 5:34 pm ET

Why would you make more efforts at work if the bonus you get for these extra efforts goes in taxes? Why would you work in the first place when you know that the government will pay you a salary if you are jobless? Why would you start a company where you have no rights as a business owner and where you can't even fire the laziest people working FOR you? Why would you rush to go to work when the metro worker highjacked your only method of transportation? Why travel when the pilot of the plane decided that one of the most important airport in Europe should be closed down for a couple of days? ...
Work in Europe, hah, what a joke!!!

DoubleW   February 23rd, 2010 5:38 pm ET

Let's be realistic. For most of human history, slavery has been endemic in any culture above the wandering family unit of hunter-gatherers. The ancient slave-holding mentality dies hard, and only by conscious effort can we transcend it. Right now, the soulless, conscienceless corporations are in the saddle in America. It will take another Great Depression and another FDR to even attempt to unseat them.

Ray   February 23rd, 2010 5:40 pm ET

This isn't about Europeans' work ethic! It's about economically powerless working European being concerned that their pay and benefits being purged by greedy shareholders and gutless corporate management teams.

Why not turn this question around Richard –

are the sky-high ROI expectations of investors, shareholders and management teams in large oil-based industries out of date and out-of touch with reality?

Observer2010   February 23rd, 2010 6:16 pm ET


The central issue that Western-style economies must address is how to balance the immediate interests of the shareholders (always a statistical minority) with the needs and aspirations of the rest of the population.

Miami Mike   February 23rd, 2010 6:21 pm ET

The West's way of life will continue to decline thanks to the soul-less, greedy corporations and the corrupt governments that support them. The US has lost its shine and continues to corrode and Europe's workers don't want to allow it at their home. I am not an Anarchist, but I am starting to see what the negative impact it is having on society on a global level with free trade, NAFTA, etc. The world needs to wake-up.

Eurobserver   February 23rd, 2010 6:28 pm ET

Unfortunately, the debate is skewed as there is no such thing as a "European" model. There are at least as many models in Europe as there are states. In some countries, like France, the model could vary depending on the industry you are in. Public servants and private sector employees are not treated the same way and that extends all the way to retirement rights and pensions. Some European models, such as those in the Scandinavian countries, are more balanced and are generally perceived as better models than others, economically, socially and in terms of labour laws and industrial practices. Trade Unions in Mediterranean countries, particularly France which is the largest economically, are literally sinking their country while bringing no benefit whatsoever to their members. They see the country sinking and give it a huge slab of cement to help it hold on, the stand on it. I have to agree with comments posted by Ram, Chris and Anand. They mirror some of the realities of Europe. Many European countries are living well above their means. What is the point of having 6 weeks vacation when 12% of the workforce is unemployed. Companies that function that way go bankrupt. In some industries now, risks of delays due to low labour skills, unjustified absence, or industrial action and strikes are factored into projects and leading to massive delays. Its not a matter that can be pinned down to just a single entity. The whole system is responsible, government who is killing business with a heavy public service and social security costs and the taxes needed to sustain these, corporations that are struggling to survive in a very competitive world and indeed strive for shareholder satisfaction or they die, hence off shoring, trade unions who live in a prehistoric world, particularly in countries like France and Greece, still advocating dogmas even communist regimes shied away from. Despite all their smart talk about preserving jobs in France, a french person would consider buying a car made in Romania or an Asian country, even if it means risking jobs in France. Renault sales figures jumped thanks to Daxia. Forget national pride or solidarity. The US has problems of its own and differ in many ways from those the European countries are encountering. Try to get an unemployed French person to change town to get a job. Many Americans would and indeed many do. Cultural difference play a significant role. In France a person would prefer to get unemployment benefits for 3-years paid by the government (who gets them from ... yes, indeed, higher taxes) rather than move 30 or 40 Km to get another job. Only a dramatic and fundamental shift in political, social and economical mentalities, which in my opinion is Utopia at this stage, could help move some countries in Europe on a path of recovery and growth. The Asian economies, and maybe a couple of Latin American economies, will continue to grow and prosper at the expense of the European and US economies. The developing-world of the next century is west. The new motto is Don't go west young man, the future is in Asia. When the Chinese and Indians, among others, start building planes (which China will do thanks to France) and cars (Tata is on its way) the same way they produce so may other goods destined for the West, then Europe will have a lot more to worry about. In a century or less, books will teach that God may have created the world, but everything else is made in Asia.

LM   February 23rd, 2010 6:49 pm ET

To some extent European workers are not used to the realities American workers are facing. However, to put it this way is simplistic. It goes much deeper than that. European workers do not ACCEPT that they are disposable commodities at the mercy of their employers. "The Market" is not God in Europe. It's not that workers there are slow to adapt to the American model. They are well aware of it, and they reject it. A crucial difference is that in Europe workers understand that if they join together their bargaining power increases, and it's much harder to "divide and conquer". Union-breaking the way it's done in the U.S. would be met with countrywide crippling strikes by ALL workers (sometimes called a "general" strike). What can a government do against such weapon? Fire everyone? Arrest everyone?
Also, mobility in Europe is not as easy and not as acceptable as it is in America. Moving from Germany to Ireland or Poland is a much greater cultural and linguistic challenge than moving from Arizona to Texas. The U.S. is far more homogeneous and it's set up for mobility.
As for quality and productivity, having lived in Germany and the U.S., I found German workers to be far more conscientious and productive than many American workers I know of when they are ON the job. However, when they are OFF the job, they are OFF and they won't accept a 24/7 environment. They demand to be able to spend some quality time with their families without having their boss text them in the middle of dinner. For example, here in the US most people don't take time off between Christmas and New Year. However, in my experience very little is accomplished during those days. People "look" busy but their minds are elsewhere. In Germany, most workers take those days off, but when they go back to work they work at full speed. One may agree or disagree with this position, but it does have its merits and it cannot be easily dismissed.

Rike   February 23rd, 2010 6:58 pm ET

With all due respect, I think some of the commentaries very haughty.
The economic crisis we´re now suffering from didn´t stem from Europe. It was brought about by the greed of American banks and shareholders who infected Europe with their unethical business methods and later on their failure.You should learn something from Europe – namely that human beings are a bit more than just workers or consumers.Don´t infect us with your subservience to big money and big companies and your neglect of working class people´s dignity.

Marc Sutter   February 23rd, 2010 7:00 pm ET

Let the strikers pay for the full cost of their actions, not simply a few days pay. If an independent arbiter decides their actions have been unreasonable then they should have to have to pay for the full cost of their actions. This means any future settlement need to take account of the cost of their previous actions.

The BA pending strike seems ill founded and if they take action as seems possible they should lose their non contractual privileges, all companies and particularly those in the public sector need to find ways of achieving greater efficiencies in harmony with the management, rather than ignoring the obvious needs to do so.

Filippo I.   February 23rd, 2010 7:06 pm ET

Europeans need to wake up and smell the coffee as socialism along with unions have inevitably put them back in the dark ages. Rather than sitting on their behind and working 35 hours while expecting all sorts of social benefits, it is time they actually work for a change. The difference between working hard and hardly working is what's apparent today in lot of European countries.

greg   February 23rd, 2010 7:16 pm ET

much of America has lost it's work ethic. We depend on Unions, ACLU and lawyers to keep us from exerting too much effort in being competitive at work. Most Americans work as fast as the slowest common denominator. Just look at all the obese workers! We have become fat lazy Americans. Except for me. I'm a skinny hard working American.

Pamela   February 23rd, 2010 7:22 pm ET

I must admitt I was rather shocked in reference to the benefits the French receive. I lived in Paris for about 18 months. I was there trying to locate some possible obscure kin based on the records that I had from previous ancestors that came to Louisiana during the 18th century. Of course I can understand how they feel when it comes to lifestyle. After all the French went through a lot of terror during the French Revolution and as a result got rid of Louis 16th and all of his kin. Old Louis thought his French subjects were nothing but his personal slaves. Big mistake and then he lost his head. Americans think that any person who don't work themselves to death is wierd. Yet Americans will drop dead in the minute of stress and heart attacks and then brag at the same time of their riduiculous stock portfolios which in todays market is worthless.

Ben   February 23rd, 2010 7:29 pm ET

It´s not about work ethics. Some European countries have strong work ethics, such as Germany. I don´t know if theses strikes are motivated by a sense of entitlement by workers as much as a specific sign of these union´s stubborness. When the union´s get the upper hand in negotiations, much damage can be done to companies (e.g. Big Three), and companies lose competitiveness for good. Usually union policy benefits "insiders" (people who already have jobs), and do much harm to "outsiders", the unemployed. However, there should be a balance, and governments should intervene in the labor market in order to assure some basic labor rights, such as paid vacation time and such.

Dava   February 23rd, 2010 7:33 pm ET

No Quest, it is you with your biased opinions that makes me feel unethnic. Jeez, first he assualts the Euro, and now our work ethics. I think he is just annoyed the Euro is worth more, and the fact that we have a healthy amount of day off that can make your lifestyle balanced and makes people have a more positive attitude.

dr André Kruger   February 23rd, 2010 7:34 pm ET

With work "ethics" like these, who can blame the entrepreneurs, the creators of wealth and jobs, for sending their production to China? And for replacing people, misled by fat cat "union bosses" with machines?

dr A Kruger

workoholic   February 23rd, 2010 7:46 pm ET

As an American woman married to a German workaholic and living and working in Germany (with children), I can say that I would pay higher taxes any day for all of the benefits that are available here. Taxes buy civilization and the US is lacking in it, even though half of the population doesn't seem to realize it. Even though there was a bus driver strike this week, most people I know could still ride the train and ride their bikes to work without any major inconvenience. This is the price we pay for allowing politics to work the kinks out.
I like knowing that my less highly educated neighboors have a decent quality of life. I like not seeing legions of homeless people under every overpass.

Sam Stallard   February 23rd, 2010 7:54 pm ET

This is hilarious. Do Europeans in the labor force give one 'hoot' what CNN readers think? A lot of Americans would love to sacrifice a bit of 'competitiveness' for more benefits. Looks like obsessive competitiveness in the financial sector kinda backfired as well ...

Altair   February 23rd, 2010 8:16 pm ET

Europeans are used to a high standard of living brought about by a strong work ethic and world-class companies. They still have both; however, in globalized economies they now have competition from people in emerging economies who also have a strong work ethic but who has a lower standard of living which allows them to produce competing products at lower cost. There are no easy answers.

Haggus   February 23rd, 2010 8:18 pm ET

Notwithstanding the problems on this side of the pond (I'm actually north of the 49th), Europe worries me the most. They are older and have a bigger gap between money earned and their lifestyle.

Ian   February 23rd, 2010 8:31 pm ET

I enjoy how Europeans and Americans are battling each other over what work ethic or standard of living is best. However, while each side has its own strengths and weaknesses, each are blind to the coming realities of the new century. The argument should not be "who is better? or outdated?", but "how can WE BE better and DO better?". There are many problems in the world (climate change, radicalism, famine... etc etc) and these problems require collective action by Europeans, Americans and the rest of the world.

I am as concerned by the current economic climate as anyone else. However, questions such as these and the arguments that they lead to serve little purpose. I want the European standard of living, but I want to be dynamic like Americans. How can we create a better economic system? A system that can enable humanity to be happy, productice and to tackle the really big challenges that it faces in the coming centuries.

Lets focus on solutions.

meles   February 23rd, 2010 8:39 pm ET

Do Europeans have an outdated work ethic just because they don't accept to be overworked and underpaid on lousy jobs, with no benefits and no prospects, just as here in North America?

Tim   February 23rd, 2010 8:40 pm ET

This is nonsense, America works hard I admit that, but, you still went broke! It's not how hard you work, but the direction you are travelling in.

Aisa   February 23rd, 2010 8:40 pm ET

I am so glad I no longer work in the US.

I moved to Sweden, and have a similar pay, but with 6 weeks of vacation per year. Pension, health care included. If my child gets sick, I get paid by state to stay at home and care for him.
I still pay as much taxes as I did back in the states, it is just that Swedish government invests them wisely back into the country. Wonderful childcare, health care, transpiration, etc... I love it here.

Martin   February 23rd, 2010 8:41 pm ET

"outdated work ethic?"

I am from Europe, Austria and I find it remarkable that most commentaries are about work in Europe in general, whereas the topic is about airline pilots.

Anyway, in times of crisis, competitiveness should be redefined, because today, the ones that produce faster and on time are not really competitors. But those who can stretch schedules and still be fine, those are the competitors due to their flexibility. I know many people that are on vacation frequently or work kind of part-time for a limited time period until production increases again. So "working hard" is exactly how you kick yourself out of business and let the real competitors win.

Ales   February 23rd, 2010 8:42 pm ET


i see a lot of comments telling us Europeans to work even harder, lol. We have overdeloped infrastructure, high value industry complexes, we have it all, why because we have worked hard for century's, spat blood because of this, fought 2 world wars for the economic prosperity and many more. On the other hand other contries haven't done that in the past, are only doing it now, we have earned our hight standard of living, other continent's haven't (execpt NA and aus.). You want to be slaves as we were, go ahead just don't tell us how to live, please. Remember French revolution, anybody?

Anand   February 23rd, 2010 8:54 pm ET

Follow-up comment and response to Ozpat:

Having worked and lived in Europe and having worked with American, European and Indian companies, I can share that Europeans are an enlightened bunch and have a strong work ethic in general. It is the benefit system which I think needs to be rationalized, in tune with global reality, both in the wake of new regions emerging with talented and committed workers as well as the changes driven by the financial crisis.

I also like Eric's comment where he has focused on the type of jobs as the mundane low-skilled jobs which are creating the most noise in Europe.

In response to Ozpat's comments on India: Please visit India (it is also a great holiday destination!) and check out the quiet revolution out there, not only in high-tech IT and Telecom but also in the universities, in the films and in research and development, all please note in a vibrant democracy where political/labor rights are well evolved. Moreover, you will find huge sections of India where entrepreneurship (even if small scale) is prized over any other skill and that stems from innovation, not doing the same thing. At the same time, there is a huge talent pool, wanting to live a decent standard of living and who treat work with importance. So while some Europeans (not all, as Eric points out) might come to a low-skilled job pretty grumpy about pay/job security/benefits, it will just get done in India (by most, again, not all) by someone who really wants to do that job and well. That does not mean job options do not exist or questions do not get asked when they should be or worker rights do not exist or strikes do not happen in India but there is a strong sense of performance and accountability coming in.

Overall, I see the realities for workers in different parts of the world are quite different and it eventually boils down to what you as the employee want to work on and fight for, no matter what your union might say. If you want to fight for job security, then, you need to realize that not many companyies can guarantee you that, especially in a global, changing world and certainly not if you are not willing to look at your job performance and your skills.

Peter Warren   February 23rd, 2010 9:39 pm ET

Unions, which one served a purpose in the lawless cradle of greedy bosses, have mostly become parasites which destroy one industry and then one country after another. The British and American car industries vanished or have almost vanished under their vampire teeth and they have their fangs well into the airline and other industries. Haughtily disdainful of how many people's lives and efforts they piss upon or high handedly upset at considerable expense, nothing matters except extracting all they can from the carcass before it dies and when it does die, getting all they can from the ruins. Britain is a shell of what it once was and their biggest success is in driving untold quantities of industrial production out of the West and into the East. Bravo. Keep waving the flag, spewing the downtrodden workers propaganda, sunning your toes on the beach, demanding ever more, and let's work hard to get rid of the rest of industry so that the Chinese end up owning it all. And meanwhile, lets get More, More MORE EVER MORE in benefits nobody has earned bankrupt one country after another and saddle our children with so much debt that their financial lives are bankrupt before they are even conceived. Steal money from anybody and everybody (and especially your own unborn children). Irresponsibility and Laziness to the fore! Altogether now, one last BIG push to wreck the rest of it while a few bits remain standing – STRIKE!

Hansen   February 23rd, 2010 9:47 pm ET

I am European myself – born in Denmark, living in Poland. As far as I am concerned many Europeans have completely unrealistic expectations to their pay, benefits, healthcare and in particular public pension plans. With the population ageing, considering the relatively large public debt of most European countries and the continued deficits, it is outright absurd that most Europeans feel that they have a right to all kinds of benefits when it is obvious that there is no way the societies can continue paying for this. A large part of the Polish population is receiving all kinds of pensions and benefits and believes it is their right. No politicians have the courage to stop this and even if they did, the voters would choose other politicians who would just keep on doling out money. Are people really that blind?

ana petrov   February 23rd, 2010 10:16 pm ET

Mr Max,
first of all, I won´t write you a novel about that topic.
Europe isn´t unique.It consist of many different countries which had different systems (capitalism- not the same in all countries; socialism- also not the same in all countries). In that circumstances were made a European work ethic. Is it outdated? Certainly yes if you compare it with a work ethic in USA. But, I don´t think that in USA things looks like much more better, specially during the downturn. Will the work ethic must change? Certainly,but be sure, not by night!

Chuck Gee   February 23rd, 2010 10:35 pm ET

First of all, are we really supposed to reply to an article that is totally lacking in substance? The only thing posted is information about work stoppages. Where is the in-depth reporting that we as consumers of news expect? It seems to me that CNN is totally lacking a work ethic in publishing this 'article'.

Annabel   February 23rd, 2010 10:36 pm ET

How typically American to pass such a ridiculous judgement on another culture. You wonder why the rest of the world sees Americans as base, ignorant, and obnoxious

I AM American, living in Europe, and I can tell you, the American work culture is pathetic. Your Republican mouthpeices scream and yell about your 'freedoms.' It's Laughable! American workers have NO rights. NO right to time off. NO rights to maternity pay and NO right to expect their employers to keep a job open after a woman returns to work. And NO right to health care.

Thanks, you can have my American 'Rights.'

Alex   February 23rd, 2010 11:20 pm ET

To answer the first question, I do not know if you want to know what we think... but you appear to care.

To answer the second question, I think ethics aren't related to time and space, ethics are universal and their appliance might be situation-related. Therefore the ethics of today and of the past are the same, although situations today may make their appliance be different.

Peter   February 23rd, 2010 11:38 pm ET

Quote: an Indian professional is willing to work 35 hours a weekend which is something most Europeans find difficult in a week. Grow up people and start working for a living!!

Why should Europe go back where it had been 100-150 years ago and see Indian or Chinese slave labor conditions as something worth aspiring to?

Imre   February 24th, 2010 4:48 pm ET

I believe that the syndicats are also outdated. The purpose in old times was to respect and behold the interest of the employees, whilest today it's all about power and show – off.

The problem is that you would need a Jack Welsch, a Lou Gerstner, or an Alan Mullaly type of CEO at these megacompanies that run very uneffective, don't respect civil rights not even on their staff and they wake up with strikes all over.

It's both parties's fault.

Jan Ulrich Jensen   February 24th, 2010 8:05 pm ET

Richard, I voted in your "unscientific poll", but the question did not really make sense. There is not ONE European work ethic, but many.
I am curious to see where you are going with this ... maybe you were just bored at the airport 😉

André Kruger   February 24th, 2010 10:10 pm ET

The only "beneficiaries" of strikes are the (communist) union bosses, able to convince the gullible workers that they try to protect them, while they really just siphon of the best, then cannot care less if the company and all its employees go down the drain.

Craig Eyles   February 25th, 2010 6:38 am ET

You Europeans have no right to complain. Here in Australia, we have 5 of the worlds top 10 most expensive cities.

And couples who both worked, then had kids, have no found it's more expensive to have kids than ever.

On, btw "Rike", don't just blame Bush for the GFS. Blair & the IMF slept on the same pillow.

LOGICAL Dave W. Dawson   February 25th, 2010 2:56 pm ET

The Boss pays for the Show & the Boss gets the Show.
That's the Business Law & the Loyalty to it.
These simple words will stand the test of Time as the LAZY fall by the wayside.
In otherwords, don't ever backchat the Business Experts.

Juan Winona MN   February 25th, 2010 9:25 pm ET

Europeans do not have a work ethic. Americans do, and is strongly related to the Puritan version of protestantism by which idleness is inherently evil. In the US work is "morally good" in Europe is a means to and end. Although Europeans do indeed work very hard, when they have reached a comfortable standard of living, they start to trade money for time. The idea of success requires a balance between income and social and family connections and free time. Think of the word "welfare". in the US is extremely negative, while in Europe is the final destination of a society.

The ideal successful person in the Us popular imagination is somebody stepping out of a private jet with a cellphone. In Europe is somebody lying on a hammock in some southern paradise. Being rich does not make you successful, it is part of it, but not the whole picutre

internet news   March 11th, 2010 10:45 pm ET

Oh! This is awesome! Thanks for countering many
misunderstandings I have read about this lately.

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