According to the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) study, a low-earner is someone who receives less than €9.25 an hour – and over a quarter in Germany regularly rack up more hours than the 48-hour weekly limit set by the government.
Currently, 22 percent of the working people are classed as low earners, the Berliner Zeitung newspaper reported on Tuesday.
While more than half of this figure has an apprenticeship qualification or university degree, typical low-paid professions in Germany tend to be vocational or manual.
The paper expressed grave concern at the health implication of working over the 48 hour week limit set laid down in the German Working Hours Act.
Sleep disturbance, back pain and heart trouble were cited in the article as some of the most common complaints from people who worked very long hours. It added that, according to author Karl Brenke, the workload also encouraged unhealthy eating and exercise habits.
The DIW also investigated low earners in part-time employment. Once again those on low wages were found to work longer than average hours.
Brenke told the Berliner Zeitung that many were prepared to increase their working hours, even if that didn’t mean a significant pay rise – a phenomenon the author called “hidden underemployment.”
Most low earners are not on Hartz IV unemployment benefit – in fact only one in eight receives the welfare payment.