‘Work-Life’ balance is a term I was made aware of quite late in life having grown up in one of the most workaholic countries I am aware of.
Indians work a lot. A lot. A lot.
Even with jokes about the inefficiency of the people who work with/for the Indian government, even they work a lot compared to other global counterparts. Efficient or not is an entirely different debate based on many macro-level factors.
Just looking at recent average numbers (OECD Data), Germans average 1363 hours/year which is even lower than France (1472 hours/year) already infamous for their 35 hour/week regulation. On a weekly basis, Germany works 34.5 hours per week.
According to a recent survey by a global recruiting firm (Read here: Millennial Careers: 2020 Vision), Indian Millennials are working an average of 52 hours/week. (1.5 times more than German Millennials to be exact). Even Japan is far behind at 46 hours/week.
I don’t claim to be an expert but in my humble opinion, here are the top differentials between working in India and Germany.
The concept of minimum wages is strictly applied in Germany compared to India. Even though Germany doesn’t have the highest minimum wage in the world (1. Australia, 2.Luxembourg, 3. Belgium), it is definitely competitive at 8.84 euros per hour. India has one of the lowest minimum wages in the world for large economies not to mention a shabby legal structure that doesn’t really protect workers at the lower end of the income spectrum.
Does this mean you will make more money in Germany than in India? Yes and No.
Yes, in absolute terms due to high minimum/average wages as mentioned above.
No, in relative terms because the variable of highly skilled labour reacts very differently to the market.
In simple terms this means, if you are at the bottom/average end of skills/wage spectrum, you are relatively better off working in Germany. If you are highly skilled and have a few years of experience, you are definitely relatively better off in India.
Why? Because India has no upper limit when it comes to incomes nor does it have rigid industry averages (fast growing economy, high demand for premium labor, etc). If you’re good, averages don’t apply to you. For example, a graduate from INSEAD with a few years of experience makes an average of 80k euros/year, whereas a graduate from IIMB after a few years of experience can easily pocket 40k euros/year (In India) which at PPP (What is PPP?) would be about 135k euros/year in Germany.
I don’t know any one in their mid-20’s in Germany making that kind of money. I know a lot of them making the same/more in India.
VERDICT(If money is the only parameter): India>Highly skilled workers
Germany>Low/average skilled workers
Exceptions to this exist for shortage occupations in Germany. Such as scientists, certain types of engineers and doctors. Suffices to say, shortages are always exceptions in the demand/price spectrum.
Networks in Germany are carefully and painstakingly built over a period of many years. Asking for favours or even getting your foot through a door may not be as simple as it is in India. I think this has a lot to do with the individualist/collectivist culture even otherwise experienced in Germany and India respectively. Networks while strong in Germany can be extremely exclusive with high barriers to entry, whilst that is not always the case in India. Even just for adding a contact on LinkedIn you may need to actually know the person in real life and have had a related conversation.
In India, it is almost always about who you know. If you know the right people, you will rest assured get your foot through the door. What you do after that, is up to you.
In Germany, it is almost always a case of credentials over networks. Especially when it comes to long-term roles that will be a significant draw on the company’s resources. Asking for favours is just not a German thing at all, even in personal relationships. Professional relationships are not that far behind.
VERDICT: Both approaches have their own benefits and at various points in one’s career might change drastically.
(RELATED: Work Culture in Germany: Myth or Reality?)
This element is of course very subjective based on the field that you work in as well as economy wide factors.
Let us for simplicity take the example of corporate/private sector. Positions/Job titles are not easily thrown away in Germany. Promotions also follow a very meticulous track especially if you never switch between companies. I have known people who are a respective ‘Manager’ in their field for 10+ years. They would have experienced a growth in monetary aspects for sure, but in terms of work and responsibilities, it is almost always a slow and gradual increase in Germany. Unless you happen to work at a start-up where all the normal rules don’t apply anyway.
Private sector in India can also be similar, but in my experience growth is comparatively faster. This is also due to increasing competition between firms to enter/expand their market in India. This translates into more growth opportunities and explains why a lot of Indians are hopping roles every few years in search for something potentially better.
The market in Germany is pretty saturated in most fields that one can think of. Growth is somewhat predictable and slow both inside and outside of your career.
VERDICT: India for growth
On average, Indians get about 27 days off including paid leave and public holidays. In Germany, the average is around 29 days, but most companies in practise give 10 extra days to their employees.
Bavaria for instance has on average 30 paid days off, plus 13 public holidays. That’s 43 holidays excluding weekends!
I am never leaving Bavaria.
More than the actual number of holidays, it is the attitude towards holidays that I find drastically different between India and Germany. Indians love to work, and show that they work hard in the hopes of higher growth/promotions, etc. Since work-life balance is not really promoted as a culture, the majority of Indians barely take more than 10-12 annual holidays apart from public ones. Germans on the other hand sometimes even take more.
This attitude is fast changing with modern India taking more and more holidays. But there’s still a long way to go when compared to how much Germans love to holiday.
VERDICT: Germany for maximising your holidays.
- Insurance: Mandatory in Germany for employers and non-mandatory for employers in India (except for public sector employees). In Germany, both employers and employees contribute equally to public health insurance unless private insurance is separately undertaken which has a higher premium and different regulations. Indian private sector is highly fragmented when it comes to health insurance. Most multinational firms do offer some coverage, but it is usually not very extensive and a more common benefit under “Medical bills” reimbursement is a part of the overall salary structure.
- Pension/Social Security: Mandatory in Germany for employers and non-mandatory for employers in India (except for public sector employees). If you’re worried about how your pension can be dealt with, a recent social security agreement would make things clearer (Read here: Social Security Agreement b/w Germany & India regarding overseas workers )
- Other Benefits: Other benefits such as accident insurance, ESOP’s, house rent allowance, travel reimbursements etc are of course highly subjective based on the company size, sector and role.
Overall, in Germany about 21% of your Gross Income would go into compulsory contributions such as insurance and pension (social security) excluding taxes (unless you are exempt from paying pension in special cases), so it helps to prepare for this in advance.
VERDICT: Depending on where you plan to retire, the country of your choice would change.
The grass always seems greener on the other side of the world, yet many things we come to take for granted in our side of the world don’t even exist in another.
May the force be with you either way.
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