The survey, Euroworker, from 3i's European Enterprise Centre could well inflame north-south tensions in the EU; in the league table of "particular strengths" German workers are mentioned no fewer than eight times under headings such as education level, efficiency and adherence to the rules. When it comes to Spain's particular strengths, it has "none".
Indeed 3i's whole approach reeks of the Eurovision Song Contest with the Spaniards getting "null points" for their willingness to work and punctuality.
Before British Europhobes start patting themselves on the back, it should be said that British workers got a panning for their poor educational standards. And the criticism comes from their own managers.
Businessmen from Britain rated their own workers' education level at -2, compared to +61 for the Germans and +21 for the French. Even the Italians are reckoned to be far better educated, scoring +19.
The Brits are also accused by their own countrymen of lacking creativity, although this presumably doesn't extend to the ability to think up reasons for holding a tea break.
Why compile a list of such incendiary views at all? Adam Quarry, 3i director of marketing, explains: "The views expressed provide an insight into some of the employment factors which influence the competitiveness of Europe's five largest economies and decisions involving cross-border investment."
Mr Quarry noted that managers in each country were willing to admit weaknesses in their own workforces. But he was concerned to see "such low appreciation of workers, employment and government in the Mediterranean countries of Italy and Spain by their counterparts further north in Europe."
Quite. The 3i research summarises findings among managers of Europe's small and medium-sized independent businesses in Britain, Germany, France, Spain and Italy. Managers were asked to give a rating of between +100 (very good) and -100 (very poor) for factors contributing to the quality of their own and each others' workforce and working conditions.
Germany's leader Chancellor Helmut Kohl may rule a humourless nation but he has the last laugh: when managers were asked to rate the effectiveness of their own and each others' rulers, three out five governments were rated "poor" But Germany's was rated the best by far at +26, more than four times higher than Tony Blair's lot, who got just +6, despite the latter's much-vaunted landslide election victory.
Still, New Labour did better than its French counterpart which rated -5, while Spain got -16 and finally the hapless Italian government, which won a confidence-shrivelling -35.
All in all, 3i's executives may be well advised to avoid Europe's sunnier countries during the summer holidays.Reuse content