Amazing How Many People in Europe are Sick

I mean ill.  That kind of sick.  Don’t be nasty, even if they are Europeans!

Europe has a very generous social welfare system–basically, just say you aren’t feeling quite right, and you get paid.  Surprise, surprise … people take advantage of the system!

I am shocked—like being shocked to find gambling going on at the casino.

Reports the Wall Street Journal:

Dirk Cuypers, the top official at Belgium’s health ministry, is sick of sick leave.

Belgians, like many Europeans, are entitled to extensive or even unlimited sick leave — and they tend to stretch the definition of the word. One study showed government employees in droves were calling in sick to pack before vacations and to sleep off holiday hangovers. Some government departments were averaging 35 days of paid sick leave per employee each year, more than twice the national rate and seven times the U.S. average.

“It was perverse,” says the 55-year-old former medical director for two big private-sector pharmaceutical companies, Eli Lilly & Co. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. He decided to do something about it.

Dr. Cuypers and the minister for civil service set up a network of doctor-inspectors around the nation to smoke out malingerers. Each day since January last year, a dozen inspectors such as Vincent Quoidbach have been touring Belgium, knocking on the doors of 150 randomly selected sick and not-so-sick civil servants.

Once, says Dr. Quoidbach, he discovered that a man taking time off was really working a black-market job, given away by the paint on his hands. Another man answered his door with an undone belt as a woman hurried out the door. Others, faking bad backs, got to the door too fast.

Europe has long suffered from sick-day disease, and many European governments are trying to fix the problem. The average European worker took off 11.3 days in 2005, compared with 4.5 days for the average American, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, in Paris. The cost of those lost workdays to Europe’s economy is sometimes as much as 1.3% of gross domestic product annually, says OECD senior economist Christopher Prinz.

But changing Europe’s sick-day culture isn’t easy. Half of all Belgians on medical leave say they suffer from depression — the country has Western Europe’s highest suicide rate. “You can’t contradict the opinion of a psychiatrist,” says Dr. Quoidbach. “It has to be obvious they’re cheating.”

Unfortunately, the labor unions are pushing for these sort of policies in the U.S. in the name of helping workers.  But the way to help workers is to reward them for their labors, not pay them to leech off the taxpayers.

Only the cheaters benefit from the European system.  Everyone else pays.  And overall economic growth lags, yielding a smaller pie to divide.

The incoming administration should take note.