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Out of richest countries, U.S. provides the fewest vacation days for workers

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Compared to other countries, workers in the U.S. tend to take considerably less time off work.


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The Beatles sang about that “hard day’s night” and how they “worked like a dog.” But compared with workers in the United States, those Brits didn’t know how good they had it.

In fact, while U.S. workers aren’t guaranteed any paid days off by the government, most Europeans can count on at least four weeks per year of paid vacation days and holidays.

According to a 2013 report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, 23 percent of Americans have no paid vacations or holidays. Of course, many companies provide benefits to their (full-time) employees of a certain number of paid vacation days and holidays off, but the average private-sector worker gets “only about 10 days of paid vacation and about six paid holidays per year.”

Contrast this with the guarantee given by the countries that are members of the European Union: Workers must have a minimum of 20 days off per year.

Combining those personal days off with paid national holidays, Austria, Portugal and Spain lead the pack in allowing workers time to relax, giving 38, 35 and 34 days per year, respectively.

Australia and New Zealand, while not part of the EU and under its mandate, still are among the top of the world’s rich nations in giving vacation time, with 28 and 30 days per year each.

This doesn’t mean that businesses force their workers to take all that leave during the dead of winter, either. According to the CEPR report, “Nine European countries have regulations to guarantee that workers can take at least some of their leave in the summer peak vacation season.”

Samy Kerob, a business owner in France, said, “Of course, the rhythm of the holidays is defined by the school holidays. The summer holidays are the most important.”

Anyone who’s been to a U.S. tourist destination in the summertime and chatted with the numerous foreign visitors who seem to be touring the entire western U.S., for instance, can attest to that.

A few countries in Europe even provide more leave for young and older workers, with Italy granting 10 days extra to workers under 30. In Norway, age has its perks, with workers over 60 getting an extra week off.

In Switzerland, “workers under the age of 30 who do volunteer work with young people are entitled to an additional five days of annual leave.”

So how does all this extra time off tie in with the countries’ economies? A quick look at unemployment rates paints just a small part of the picture: Trading Economics shows that December figures for unemployment in Portugal are 13.1 percent; Australia, 6.1 percent; France, 10.4 percent; and the United States, 5.6 percent.

“Europe’s paid leave regime has not been entirely immune to the pressures of the Eurozone crisis,” according to The Huffington Post. “Recession-weary” Portugal did make the move of temporarily trimming paid days off.

As The Telegraph’s Matthew Sparkes wrote, “From 2013 there will be a five-year hiatus during which two religious holidays and two public holidays will be canceled. The country’s leaders hope that the 20 extra productive days over the next five years will give the country’s GDP a boost and help to drive growth.”

Since workers in the US are already accustomed to less vacation, overall job happiness plays a big role in the well-being of employees. As a working individual, it's on you to find your dream career and make your stars align. Nevertheless, KSL Jobs is here to help you out.