Why do Germans tend to carry more cash in their pockets than people in the U.S.? This sounds like a weird question, but I think it says a lot about workers’ rights. An article from USA Today (via the Chicago Sun-Times) reports that the average German saves more than Americans, and they use credit cards less. The average German carries $123 in cash compared to $74 for Americans. Where 53% of Americans have credit cards only 32% of Germans use them. The article cites history as the cause of this difference: “Germany’s cash obsession is deeply rooted in the scare from its economic crisis between World War I and II.” Later, it claims, “After losing WWII and suffering massive destruction, Germans believed frugality and hard work would help them recover.”
I do not dispute these claims. But I think there maybe another important reason that Germans can pay cash and keep more of it in their pockets: They are better paid and have more rights as employees. According to a 2011 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, German workers earned $47.38 dollars per hour compared to $35.33 for the average American worker. German Workers also receive more vacation time (six week on the average) and more of a safety net during times of high unemployment. While historical factors may affect how Germans think about cash, they also have more of it and a better sense of job security. I think Americans also believe in hard work and frugality, but too many of them aren’t making enough money. America needs a raise.