Does Socialism Breed Laziness? Spain and the Problem of Post-Vacation Syndrome
From the desk of Soeren Kern on Mon, 2008-09-08 11:08
It’s September and millions of unfortunate Spaniards, having just finished four full weeks of paid summer holidays, are confronting the unbearable trauma of heading back to work. And as happens every year around this time, an armada of psychologists, psychiatrists and sundry other mental health specialists, many of whom are feeding off of the largesse of the social welfare state, are offering their services to those afflicted with an ailment that Spaniards call “Post-Vacation Syndrome.”
According to Cinco Dias, one of Spain’s leading business newspapers, Post-Vacation Syndrome, also known as “Return [to Work] Syndrome” (síndrome del retorno), “is manifested in the form of apathy, generalized weakness, lack of motivation, sadness, anxiety, loss of appetite and concentration, changes in character with irritability, insomnia, and muscle and gastric discomfort.”
The national public broadcasting network Radio y Televisión Española reports that Post-Vacation Syndrome usually lasts about one or two weeks. But if the ailment lingers for more than that, RTVE says it is “advisable to seek professional help because the syndrome is probably covering something more serious, such as depression or problems at work or personal [dis]satisfaction.”
Spain’s main newspaper, the pro-socialist El País, estimates that up to one-third of Spaniards suffer from the syndrome, although the human resources management company Alta Gestión says that roughly 50 percent of Spanish workers have a hard time returning to their jobs after summer holidays. An unscientific poll conducted by the Barcelona-based La Vanguardia newspaper finds that nearly 75 percent of respondents in that city say they are suffering from Post-Vacation Syndrome this year.
According to Cinco Dias, the profile of a Spanish worker most likely to suffer from Post-Vacation Syndrome would be a male between the ages of 25 and 40 with a job that involves direct contact with the public.
But the Madrid-based Antena 3 Televisión reports that Post-Vacation Syndrome is not limited to adults. Take the case of eight-year-old Catalina, for example, whose parents are worried because the girl is very aggressive after the holidays. According to the girl’s doctor, “children suffer from Post-Vacation Syndrome just like adults […] many manifest the disorder in a more radical way, they are more irritable [...] they misbehave.”
How does one mitigate the adverse effects of “the return” [to work]? The human resources management company Randstad says it is important to return to work without thinking about the eleven months remaining until next summer.
Spain’s leading center-right newspaper, El Mundo, advises that a “mild strain of the syndrome involves a slight feeling of fatigue, malaise, confusion, reluctance and not knowing where to start. If this applies to you, do not worry, it happens to almost everybody and there is nothing you can do. Only persist, be strong, go to work the next day and you will see how every day you note it less and it heals itself.”
But, says El Mundo, “if you experience something similar but more intense and you feel bad the first day, and even worse on the second and third day, and your soul cannot take it any longer, you don’t accomplish anything, nothing more than drinking coffee, and you do not feel better, and upon arrival at home everything bothers you, you are irritated by anything, not sleeping, etc. If this happens you have two options […]”
The Overworked Spaniard
Are Spaniards really overworked? According to data compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Spanish workers do indeed “work” more hours than many of their European counterparts. In 2007, an average Spanish worker worked 1,652 hours. This compares to 1,561 hours per French worker; 1,433 hours per German worker; and 1,794 hours per American worker.
But what about labor productivity, which measures the amount (or value) of output generated per hour worked? According to the OECD, Spain has one of the lowest levels of labor productivity in Europe. An average Spanish worker generated US$39.4 in GDP per hour worked, compared with US$49.9 per French worker; US$47 per German worker; and US$50.4 per American worker.
In other words, of all those hours Spaniards are physically present at their work stations, how many of those hours are actually spent working? And how many of those hours are spent on siestas, coffee breaks, two-hour lunches, surfing the Internet, and other social activities?
Then consider public holidays [pdf]. Spain celebrates 14 public holidays (nine of which are declared by the national government and the rest at the provincial level). If one of the nine national holidays falls on a Sunday, no need to worry; regional governments get to choose a replacement holiday. And if a national holiday falls on a Thursday or on a Tuesday, businesses usually close on Fridays and Mondays in order to make a “bridge” (hacer puente) for an extra-long weekend. Add to these public holidays the 30 days of vacation that are mandated by law and Spaniards get roughly 45 days off per year.
Compare this with the United States, which observes ten federal holidays, and where, according to the Expedia 2008 International Vacation Deprivation Survey [pdf], Americans receive on average 14 days of vacation. (In Europe, French workers got an average of 37 days of vacation in 2008; Italians 33; Germans 27; British 26.)
But that’s not all. Spaniards have found another way of getting extra time off from work: labor strikes, which have become a national sport in Spain. According to the Spanish Confederation of Employers’ Organizations (CEOE), Spanish workers held 541 strikes during the first half of 2008, which resulted in the loss of 23.4 million man-hours of labor. Compared to the same period in 2007, the number of striking workers skyrocketed by 90.3 percent in 2008 and the number of hours lost jumped by 69.9 percent in 2008.
Does Socialism Breed Laziness?
According to Adecco [pdf], the human resources management company, workplace absenteeism in Spain has doubled over the last four years, from three percent to six percent. This compares with a European average of 4.6 percent. One of the main reasons why Spanish workers fail to show up for work, says Adecco, is Post-Vacation Syndrome.
Many Spanish psychologists call Post-Vacation Syndrome a ‘syndrome’ because they say the disorder consists of an identifiable set of symptoms. Others say that although the ailment is not, technically speaking, an illness, never before has it been so prevalent in Spanish society.
Still others maintain that Post-Vacation Syndrome is nothing other than classic laziness. And some go so far as to draw a clear connection between laziness and European socialism. Whereas capitalism rewards hard work and personal initiative, socialism inherently rewards laziness. Indeed, European socialist societies are teaching their citizens to expect everything, even if they contribute nothing. So why work if you can get it for free?
But according to researchers from Gothenburg University in Sweden, hard work is actually the key to happiness because laziness breeds depression and depression breeds laziness. Could this be why Spain, despite its good climate and good food, ranks as one of the unhappiest countries in Europe, according to the latest World Values Survey? (Denmark ranks as the happiest country in the world; the United States ranks 16; and Spain ranks 44.)
Could it be that the Post-Vacation Syndrome afflicting Spain is nothing more than a politically-correct, post-modern label designed to conceal the laziness, narcissism, and irresponsibility being encouraged by Spanish socialism?
Soeren Kern is Senior Fellow for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group.
I'm surprised that the
Submitted by iBarry on Thu, 2008-09-11 00:55.
I'm surprised that the British only get 26 days of vacation, I always thought of them as big vacation takers. I guess that's slowly changing.
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re: Your response to Q3
Submitted by Atlanticist911 on Tue, 2008-09-09 19:35.
If the cap doesn't fit don't wear it.
re: Path to War
Submitted by Atlanticist911 on Tue, 2008-09-09 19:24.
If you and I were nations and not people and I was on the war-path and you were my intended victim, who would protect you from me?
Donkey-Hokey # 2
Submitted by Atlanticist911 on Tue, 2008-09-09 17:50.
For the second time of asking:
Q: If we ALL decided to take the 'risk' of not working, who would put food on our tables, put clothes on our backs etc.,?
"If we 'walk on the path of peace', we'll well aware of surprises".
That response fails to address my question. KNOWING about possible surprises/dangers in advance and being prepared to DEAL with them when they occur are two entirely different things. So, I'll ask you again, who or what will protect the pacifist from the non-pacifist who seeks to do him harm?
"@ dummbart!" What's this? Do I detect a note of barely supressed anger here? Tut-tut-tut! And here's me thinking that every self- loathing pacifist-coward knew what anger leads to.
Submitted by kappert on Tue, 2008-09-09 18:45.
Q1: Who speaks of 'not working'? Everybody should have a useful labour. Famine has nothing to do with 'work'.
Q2: "who or what will protect the pacifist from the non-pacifist who seeks to do him harm?" Are you on the war-path again, I'm not.
Q3: You started this game of names ;)
Submitted by Atlanticist911 on Tue, 2008-09-09 14:57.
Donkey-Hokey wrote: "May the ruling powers call them fools because they risk the break with the irrational compulsory system"
Q: What "risk" are they taking?
Q: If we all decided to take the same 'risk', who would provide for the 'risk takers'?
(Similarly, while pacifists are walking the 'Path of Peace', who or what is protecting them from the potential dangers that lurk in the mountains and behind every bush along the way?).
Q: Do you take a salary in return for your teaching skills? Are you value for money and where can I obtain a free second opinion?
Submitted by kappert on Tue, 2008-09-09 17:07.
Q1:Anyone who breaks rules take 'risks'.
Q2: Speculative. But if we 'walk on the path of peace', we'll well aware of surprises.
Q3: As well as I receive a salary, I have rejected work. My current monthly spendings are about €300.-, that's it. Oh yes, I'm credit-free!
Let's talk Autarky
Submitted by Atlanticist911 on Tue, 2008-09-09 14:05.
Fichte is an interesting choice, especially coming from somebody like yourself, not least for his views on Jewish people.
He called Jews a "state within a state" that could "undermine" the German nation.
In regard to Jews getting "civil rights", he wrote that this would only be possible if one managed "to cut off all their heads in one night, and to set new ones on their shoulders, which should contain not a single Jewish idea".
Not a fellow pacifist one might conclude.
on work and labour
Submitted by kappert on Tue, 2008-09-09 13:54.
The corpse of labour rules society. Selling the commodity labour power in the 21st century society is as promising as the sale of stagecoaches in the 20th century. However, whoever is not able to sell his or her labour power in this society is considered to be "superfluous" and will be disposed of on the social waste dump. Those who do not work (labour) shall not eat! This cynical principle is still in effect; even when it becomes hopelessly obsolete. "Any job is better than no job" (Bill Clinton,1998) became a confession of faith. The globally evident fact that labour proves to be a self-destructive end-in-itself is stubbornly redefined into the individual or collective failure of individuals, companies, or even entire regions as if the world is under the control of a universal idée fixe. The Don Quichotes in politics and management even more grimly continue to crusade in the name of the "labour idol". Manhunts for "illegal immigrants" allegedly sneaking in domestic jobs is the business of the border police, police forces in general, and the buffer states of Schengenland: "Labour is the source of a people's prosperity and is subject to the special protective custody of the state" (Martin Luther). The disciples of the labour religion have always preached that a human being, according to its supposed nature, is an animal laborans (working creature/animal). Such an animal actually only assumes the quality of being a human by subjecting matter to his will and in realising himself in his products, as once did Prometheus. Homo faber, once full of conceit as to his craft and trade, a type of human who took seriously what he did in a parochial way, has become as old-fashioned as a mechanical typewriter. It was Immanuel Kant's keen conjecture that baboons could talk if they only wanted and didn't speak because they feared being dragged off to labour. But “civilisation has no room for idlers” (Henry Ford). Frankly, the opponents of labour are not against laziness. May the ruling powers call them fools because they risk the break with the irrational compulsory system!
the meaning of life
Submitted by peter vanderheyden on Tue, 2008-09-09 15:17.
Aside of the well putted practical objections to your philosophy by atlanticist911, What makes you believe a life without labor, a life in laziness is preferable (as in “of higher quality” or “with greater happiness”) above the life of a person dedicated to the process of creating something that he believes will be beneficial for himself and/or the persons around him? It may well be that life is meaningless by it self. But it’s my personal experience that it becomes so much richer by giving it a meaning anyway.
the meaning of life
Submitted by kappert on Tue, 2008-09-09 17:00.
I understand you equal 'greater happiness' = 'higher quality'. How many workers do something 'creative', believing their work (not labour) is beneficial to them? Giving a meaning to life has nothing to do with protestant labour ethics.
síndrome de trabajo
Submitted by kappert on Tue, 2008-09-09 12:02.
Everyone must be able to live from his work is the propounded principle. Hence that one can live is subject to a condition and there is no right where the qualification can not be fulfilled.
Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Foundations of Natural Law according to the Principles of Scientific Theory, 1797
Socialism is incompatible with a work ethic.
Submitted by onecent on Mon, 2008-09-08 15:52.
Socialism is incompatible with a work ethic. There is enough data to support that measuring productivity in various economic systems from country to country and with private versus public employees. The larger share of what you get to keep as a citizen, the harder you work. When risk takers aren't rewarded innovation suffers.
I agree with Yaffle that culture is a component, but, it's not the whole picture. China is booming because the deadening poverty insuring formula of the centralized communist economic policies changed.
The bigger issue with socialism is that it is incompatible with democracy as Europeans, increasingly ruled by Brussels bureaucrats are finding out.
and your point is...?
Submitted by Yaffle on Mon, 2008-09-08 14:09.
So a strong work ethic (arguably) makes people happy. But what has this got to do with socialism? Denmark isn't exactly a land of anarcho-capitalism either. Surely the differences between it and Spain come down to culture, not politics.