West Germans, famed for the hard work that spawned their post-war economic miracle, would rather relax today than do their job, a Cologne University study has found.

"Are the Germans lazy?" the mass-circulation newspaper Bild agonized in a front-page headline on Tuesday.A representative survey of 1,000 Germans by the university found that 43 percent felt at their best when they were not working, compared to 27 percent in 1962.

In 1960, 60 percent wanted to "achieve something" at work, but today only 43 percent have that ambition.

The survey also compared working habits of some Western nations. Forty-three percent of Germans worked longer hours than required, compared to 68 per cent of Americans, it said. Just 26 percent of Germans always "give their best" at work; 51 percent of Americans do so.