A Day in the Life What Makes the Average German Tick?

Part 4: How the Germans work


8 a.m. How the Germans work

The days when most German workers spent their day on workbenches or assembly lines are long gone. Today, they sit at computer screens with a keyboard and a mouse. Only about one-third of workers still soldier their way through the day by hammering, welding or turning screws. The others are busy typing.

They sit in offices navigating the Internet, putting together presentations, reports and doing calculations on flat-screen monitors. They sit alone, in pairs and in groups. They are surrounded by telephones, printers, fax machines and scanners. Artificial light brightens the room and file folders are stacked behind them.

More than half of the 12 million women with regular jobs in Germany work in five professional groups: 3.1 million sit in offices, 1.1 million work as nurses or physicians' assistants, 1 million are sales clerks and a further million work as teachers or providing childcare. Another half-million are cleaners.

Young girls tend to dream of becoming teachers, doctors, nurses or singers, while boys want to become train drivers, police or soldiers. Or computer scientists. But reality looks more like this: Women tend to become office clerks, physicians' assistants, hairdressers or waitresses. And the men? Fewer and fewer are choosing to become automobile mechanics, painters, electricians and carpenters. And a good 40 percent of all women and men believe you have to suck up to your boss in order to move up the ladder.

Of the 35 million people in Germany who work for companies, only about 12 percent feel motivated within their companies, two-thirds get by at work by doing the bare minimum and one out of five is so dispirited that they have entered a kind of mental resignation. The success of the German economy is carried on the shoulders of a minority. In addition, Germans this year wasted 26 of a total average of 192 working days with unnecessary administrative work and through insufficient consultation with other workers. That represents a waste of €160 billion ($250 billion), or about seven percent of the country's gross domestic product.

If you include part-time workers in that figure, the average German works about 30.3 hours per week, down from 41.4 hours in 1960.

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