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The Detroit Free Press has identified one of the reasons why the American car industry is having a problem being competitive - 10,000 employees being paid not to work.

Amid falling U.S. market share, shuttered plants and production cutbacks, Detroit's three automakers and largest auto supplier are paying about 10,000 hourly workers in the United States and Canada full wages and benefits not to work, a Free Press survey shows.

The number appears to be up from the last few years and will likely grow again this year, though it still won't be as high as a decade ago.

Most of the companies refused to say how much they are spending to pay all these workers, but it's likely well over $1 billion this year, given the number of workers and typical union wage-and-benefit packages.
This is insidious. If you're an unemployed auto worker, why on Earth would you look for another job if you're getting paid full salary to do nothing? Going out and earning a living might actually net you a pay cut. Furthermore, these aren't people who are just out of action for a month or two; typically, these people pull down their money-for-nothing for eleven months or more.

There is a long list of reasons why American car manufacturers are losing ground to foreign competition; many of the industry's problems are of their own creation. It's probably a safe bet, however, that no other nation's auto industry is paying a billion dollars a year to workers who - literally - do nothing.