GERMANY - Deutsche Bank’s chief economist, Norbert Walter, has called for Germans to get used to the idea of working longer and retiring later to help the country’s economy and preserve its competitiveness.

He called for longer working days in an article on the bank’s web site.

Walter described the 35-hour workweek as “history” and cited the German manufacturing giant Siemens, which has re-introduced a 40-hours-a-week schedule in two of its factories, Kamp-Lintfort and Bocholt.

The arrangement, Siemens said, involves 40,000 workers, who will not be compensated for longer working hours.

“Many other employers are negotiating longer working schedules, for the helpless unions there is nothing but admonishments about the impending catastrophe. One thing is certain: the catastrophe fails to materialise,” Walter wrote.

“We need longer working days because we want to gain, we do not want to give up prosperity, we do not want to tighten the belt any further,” he went on, emphasising that the country had the “disadvantage” of a relatively more costly labour force.

He also argued that Germans should dedicate more time to work, if they do not want to become “world leisure-time champions” while getting used to shrinking incomes and higher unemployment.

He also compared the average annual hours of work in the US (900) with Germany (700).

“We must get used to the idea to go back to work more- longer working day, shorted paid holidays but also getting in the labour world sooner and retire later,” Walter said.

“I suspect this will not lead to back problems or intellectual harm either,” he said. Walter however said the prospects for a stronger growth through harder work were “very good”. “After all,” he added, “we have enormous labour reserves”