US and European work

I am enormously interested in what is going on in the US job market. Having lived in Germany in the ‘90s I worked in a German bureau. I learned that the Germans work very hard when they are working. They are the most productive people outside maybe Japan. Yet they work only 37.5 hours a week with 6 weeks vacation a year. I also saw they worked when they worked, and when they didn’t, they had a life outside of work. They started at 9 and they left at 5. They took a 1.5 hour lunch with coffee breaks in the morning and snack breaks in the afternoon. They didn’t work weekends. They took all their vacation time. In other words, they worked to live their lives and enjoy themselves and their families. I thought this was brilliant. And when I returned to the States I refused to work ridiculously long hours. My bosses didn’t like it, and maybe I didn’t get promoted, but I was fine with that.

Now I read that people in the US are reassessing their work lives. After Covid allowed them more freedom to work from home and lose the long commute they have decided maybe there is a better way. Is this the silver lining from Covid? Maybe so.

I had a comment on this blog which prompted this post. She seemed to think people were being incentivized to stay home by the current administration. But those incentives have expired. I truly believe that corporate America is getting a wake-up call. They can’t continue to abuse and underpay their employees. And give them no benefits. Like the restaurants, retail and service industries routinely do. People have realized they have options. And power to them, I say! Corporate America can afford to pay their employees, (without which they cannot operate) fairly.

The restaurant workers are an excellent example. I hope the accepted system in America must be changed now, because restaurants cannot get staff to come back. The restaurants pay super low wages ($1.50 an hour sometimes) because they expect their customers (!) to pay the wages of their employees. How arrogant! And no wonder they can’t hire staff. They need to pay a living wage with benefits like any proper job should have. It works in Europe, it will work in the US. They need to bite the bullet and add a service charge to the menu, and raise prices to pay the wages of their employees. No tipping. People do not tip in Italy. You can round up the tab if you want but that’s about it. It is not expected. Increasing pay, benefits and compensation is what is needed.
This is not to say the Italian system is better, because it is not. So many problems here. Unemployment among the young and very well educated population is awfully high. The young & educated are leaving Italy for other places where they are valued and hired. They don’t want to go, but they have no choices. The system does not encourage entrepreneurs. They actually penalize those with more than 50 workers. It has become a contract economy. The employees are contract workers. The taxes are very high. I am not an expert. But these are the things I have learned.

And in Covid news…as of yesterday all workers must show the Green Pass as proof of vaccination or they will be laid off. Alternatively, they can pay and have the Covid test every 48 hours but this would take a lot of time and they have to pay for the tests themselves. It has come down to, do you want a normal life?
So this past week we have been readying for our first guests in a long time. I don’t remember when we had our last guests. It is fun anticipating them and getting ready and planning their time here. It is Luther’s brother and wife who live in Virginia, and their daughter and her husband. Of course, I’ll be taking pictures and doing posts.

Ciao, ciao, ciao.

22 thoughts on “US and European work

  1. Nancy Hampton Post author

    Wow Urchin22, very well said and some excellent points. But in the end. It leaves me sad. Sigh, is it exactly.

  2. urchin22

    Hi Nancy,

    As others have said, you touch on an important and complex topic. I too am intrigued and strangely excited by the movement afoot. China is having its own fascinating version: the lie-flat movement where youth that were working “996” (from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm, 6 days per week; i.e. 72 hours per week) have simply stopped.

    Decades ago, society was told that computers would make it possible to greatly reduce working hours. Somehow, that didn’t happen, and people who want to “get ahead” are working more draconian hours than ever. It’s sick, honestly. What’s even more troubling is, what’s it all for? For more money, for more purchases, more consumerism, when the earth is groaning as it is?

    It’s a quagmire for sure, with a lot of different tenticles…

    Yes, my Turkish friend used to say his father, a doctor in Turkey, worked to live. He worked just enough to provide a great life for his family, and by that was meant a RELAXED life. Not one with more toys, more money, more stuff. But time… Time to enjoy one another.

    We are warped for sure, and the planet can’t take any more of this. We have lost religion (not that I’m religious, but I see that church/mosque/temple provides a community center or anchor). We have lost bowling (read “Bowling Alone”). We have lost community. A sense of togetherness. Any kind of fabric of society. Now, it’s all jostling for more stuff.


  3. Nancy Hampton Post author

    Hi Danielle, I’m so glad you liked it. We will keep watching and see how eventually shakes out! ~ nancy

  4. Nancy Hampton Post author

    Hi Brenda, excellent comment. Covid has indeed changed the face of employment. How the global markets will deal with is yet to be seen. I read yesterday, a lot of the people not working had moved back in with their families and also that many could do it because the huge rise in the stock market had made their 401(k) accounts fat and they are using that money. I don’t know how long this can last. I guess all we can do is wait and see. ~Nancy

  5. Nancy Hampton Post author

    Hi Ken, well, that goes to show the fear mongering by the restaurants who say you’ll never be able to afford a meal! Com’on, who can’t afford $2.05 for a burger? What’s $.25? The reason they can treat their employees like human beings is because the management isn’t being paid obscene amounts and they are putting the money back into the business and the employees. All good business! More places should try this model. Thanks for the comment!

  6. Nancy Hampton Post author

    Hi. I have been reading about the shipping issues in the US ports. Unfortunately that is becoming more of a worldwide issue as well. I’ve heard of strikes in Trieste one of the ports here. I don’t know the answers either. If you and I did know, we’d be in big demand!

  7. Brenda Jackson

    I read your latest thoughts on employment in the USA. Covid has been difficult on everyone and indeed it has opened up an opportunity for employees to reimagine what their work life looks like. Often it affords the worker to work remotely and that has been great. Some workers have realized that they miss the comradely of working on site. While I have long agreed with your ideas on restaurant workers, living wage and benefits, the pandemic has created a shortage of workers across the board. Jobs paying family wages go without workers. Like truck drivers, construction workers, mechanics, technicians, factory workers, computer programmers….the list is endless, and so many more go unfilled. I’m not sure how we got here. While,the USA government did offer some payments to individuals and families during Covid they were nowhere near an amount that would support even a single person for a month. How do those who are choosing not who work support their basic needs? I don’t know.
    Yes, American works way to many hours a week and many never take their earned leave and vacation time. But in a society that supports its population people must work. If there are Italian nationals who leave and come to the USA looking for work they will have many opportunities to work and be paid well.

  8. Ken Bailey

    Dick’s burgers in Seattle (8 locations) just upped its minimum wage to $19. After an employee passes a skills test, it goes to $20 It gives workers free health care, 3 weeks paid vacation, 50% 401(k) match and $32,000 for tuition/childcare. At some locations, they get overtime for working over 32 hours.

    Its basic burger costs $1.80. I think the price of burgers went up 25 cents and other items 10c. They want workers to work there for several years (college generally), develop good work skills and be ambassadors for the company. So much for the $20.00 burger idea if you pay people.

  9. Estate Bella

    I’m in the Midwest US and the businesses in my neck of the earth here need staffing. Last week, a teenager at a local ice cream shop was approached by a restaurant owner. He offered her 4 dollars more an hour to go to work for his restaurant. On the spot. No interview. It’s an employee’s market now and it’s been a long time coming. Teens are being accepted at long haul trucking schools because we have a paucity of people willing to drive trucks (not good). Employee walk-outs demanding fair wages and working hours are gaining traction over here. Ten thousand employees striking at John Deere. Hundreds of cargo ships are stuck anchored off the coast of Cali. There are few people willing to unload, load, drive, distribute etc.. the goods for whatever the pay is now. I feel for the youth of Italy. As you say, they don’t get supported much to start a business. Highly educated and talented youth are having to pivot away from their expertise to find something that will pay the bills. Of course, that happens over here also. I’m sorry, I don’t have an any solutions to all of this.

  10. Tracy

    I totally agree Nancy! The same people complaining about people getting unemployment had no problem cashing in PPP money. The reason for staffing issues also include boomers retiring and younger workers simply demanding more. I applaud them.

  11. Nancy Hampton Post author

    Hi Allen, sigh. I know it is tough there. Who knows how it will sort itself out? Americans have always lived paycheck to paycheck. No savings. Walking the tightrope. The vaccine refusers are hurting others, not just themselves. That’s the problem. Here we’ve got 80% vaxed which I hope will give us an edge. Some are getting the shots to keep their jobs but there are a lot who are not. Time will tell.

  12. Allen

    It is a mess here in America. Yes people are done being treated like…. But many are moving in with relatives. Many are going into debt . Many are living pay check to pay check. Then the ones who will refuse the vaccine. Still supporting Trump . It’s ugly in America.

  13. Nancy Hampton Post author

    Hi Matt. You are absolutely right. The Italians work hard and they are very productive. Almost everything I buy is “made in Italy”. But they do value family and life/work balance. It’s part of the reason I love it here 💕 It’s the government and the laws that irritate me. I wish something could be done. 😕

  14. Nancy Hampton Post author

    Hi Paul,
    Quality of life is really important. To me, the most important th8ng. I’m glad it might be changing. Corporate America has gotten fat on the backs of low paid workers. They can afford to change their ways and value their workers not look at them like ants. Funny about my jobs, I always did very good work and I was very efficient and fast. There was never a need to work more than 40 hours to do my job well. 🤷‍♀️

  15. Matthew Daub

    What a thoughtful post. It has always bothered me to hear Americans criticize Italian workers. We felt so at home on our first trip to Italy in 94 – absolutely loved the idea of the riposo and the premium placed on family and good living.

  16. Paul Bannow

    Nancy- you are so right on about the work situation in the US. Workers are getting smart and feeling powerful. They are tired of being taken advantage of. I am happy to see it. Yes, Italy is not perfect, but the quality of life is far superior. You were so smart to not being taken advantage in your last job!!! Good for you

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