Low-wage earners work long hours to make ends meet | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 22.05.2012
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Low-wage earners work long hours to make ends meet

Germans employed in the low-wage sector often have to agree to long working hours to earn enough money to survive. A new study shows that the number of people affected has been rising for years.

Many German employees who earn low wages are forced to work very long hours to stay afloat financially. A quarter of all low-wage earners with full-time jobs work at least 50 hours a week, a study by the Berlin-based German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) claims.

"It's a social and a political problem, if those people can make ends meet only by having such long working weeks," the survey says. It adds that those affected are often exposed to above-average health risks, which implies that they also constitute a burden for the statutory health system.

In Germany, people are categorized as low-wage earners if they get less than two thirds of the average hourly wage. That means they have to earn less than 9.26 euros ($11.85) per hour.

Working hard for nothing?

The DIW claims that at present nearly 900,000 Germans work at least 50 hours a week for low pay, among them truck drivers, warehouse assistants and people employed in the catering sector. The institute, which is to officially present its study on Wednesday, points to Germany's Working Time Act, according to which the weekly working time must not exceed 48 hours on a regular basis.

The average working week of all full-time low-pay workers registered in Germany is put at 45 hours per week. Twenty two percent of the working population is in the low-wage sector.

More than half of them have jobs which require qualifications - at least an apprenticeship, but often a university degree. The bulk of those affected is made up by shop assistants, medical assistants, hairdressers and nurses.

hg/mll (AFP, dpa)