U.S. workers lag in vacation time

Memorial Day weekend is widely considered the kickoff of the American vacation season.

But are we taking as many vacations these days — especially when compared with the rest of the industrialized world?

Only 57 percent of U.S. workers use up all of the days they’re entitled to, compared with 89 percent of workers in France, a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found, according to a CNN story.

What’s more, we get fewer vacation days.

“The United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation,” writes the Center for Economic and Policy Research in a 2007 report, “No-Vacation Nation.” The center is a progressive think-tank based in Washington, D.C.

By contrast, European countries establish legal rights to at least 20 days of paid vacation per year, the report says.

The gap between paid time off in the U.S. and much of the world grows larger if legally mandated paid holidays are included, the report says. The U.S. offers none, but most of the rest of the world’s rich countries offer between five and 13 paid holidays per year.

Also, the report says, almost one in four Americans have no paid vacation and no paid holidays.

According to government survey data, the average worker in the private sector receives about nine days of paid vacation and about six paid holidays per year, the report says. That’s less than the minimum legal standard set in the rest of world’s rich economies, excluding Japan, the report says.

The paid vacation and paid holidays that employers do make available is distributed unequally, the report says. Lower-wage workers are less likely to have any paid vacation (69 percent) than higher-wage workers are (88 percent).

How’s your situation? In this economy, are you skipping some vacation days? Why?

When you’re on vacation, do you find yourself working? Why?

Here is a link to a PDF of the full report.

- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat

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161 comments Add your comment

KW

May 27th, 2011
7:15 am

First!!! At home on vacation, working on the Crackberry!

CJ

May 27th, 2011
7:36 am

Second!!! At home on bereavement day but still have an intranet page of work open in the background!

PoliticalMan

May 27th, 2011
7:39 am

Lack of vacation is only the tip of the iceberg. In general, US workers are the least empowered in the entire advanced industrial world. Unions are dying and feeble. There are no workplace structures that permit workers to deal with employers without fear of reprisals. It is a huge hole in our democracy.

JM

May 27th, 2011
7:54 am

Taking a vacation is simply not worth the aggravation. When you return to work, you have face all the work that piled up while you were gone.

hayley

May 27th, 2011
7:56 am

My company gave me a permanent vacation. And it seems likeall other companies feel the same. When you’re in your 50’s, you might as well be dead when it comes to finding a job.

jbeggs

May 27th, 2011
7:57 am

PoliticalMan – you have to be kidding me?!?! Employees are treated according to their worth to a company. The sooner unions and other affiliations die off the better the American worker will be. Companies don’t owe people jobs – they only owe 1 hr pay for one hour worked. If the employee doesn’t like it there are plenty of illegals waiting in line that will.

Southerngal

May 27th, 2011
8:00 am

I work when on vacation and when off for holidays…some things just need to be taken care of.

Chris

May 27th, 2011
8:06 am

Having arrived here from Europe, I’ll agree that lack of vacation time is a sore spot. Chalk it up for cultural differences and expectations, but the insanity eventually catches up in gradually decreasing productivity. Yes, I’d love to have 15 to 20 days of vacation per year.

Earlybird

May 27th, 2011
8:07 am

Since we ended the draft, I don’t know of anyone who took a job because a gun was held to their head. If you don’t like your situation, start your own company, then see how many days off you get!!

Babs

May 27th, 2011
8:09 am

JBeggs, you are absolutely correct! Vacation is “earned”. The jobs offered belong to the companies. If you don’t like your compensation package, then go somewhere else. They are not governments that gurantee perks. In this country, we also get paid better than the same jobs in other countries, so companies are putting the money in employers’ pockets. Also, because we tend to work more hours than other industrialized nations, we have a better lifestyle. Look at what’s happening in Western Europe. When the economy dips, they have to do away with more jobs that provide perks companies have to cut. Would you rather keep a job in both good and bad times, or have none at all. BTW (for a previous poster), we aren’t a democracy. We operate as a democratic society, but we are a republic, and there is a difference. I’m so tired of people referring to the word, “democracy”, when they don’t even know what they’re talking about.

Babs

May 27th, 2011
8:10 am

Sorry, regarding previous post, correction – it’s employees’ pockets, not employers’.

PoliticalMan

May 27th, 2011
8:12 am

If people like being treated as an expendable tool, they have it. If, on the other hand, one feels they are embedded in a human community, 24/7, then the objectification of a person a large percentage of every day by a soulless entity – a corporation – would be disturbing. It is sad to see people willingly embrace being sheep, who can only lash out at those who suggest that things could be different. Make my point!

PoliticalMan

May 27th, 2011
8:16 am

Gosh, I was under the impression that “we the people” establish the United States. Not states, not representatives. Silly me.

Babs

May 27th, 2011
8:20 am

PoliticalMan, we the people did establish the US in order to get out from under English rule. If you look at England, along with other countries, there is still a mindset of a caste system. We are different in that we aren’t necessarily what we are born into. We are given “opportunities” that we wouldn’t have in other countries. There is a price to pay for that freedom, and it’s called “personal responsibility”. You are in charge of your destiny, and look at all the great things corporations have done that have put us far ahead of other countries. You aren’t “owed” anything here, but you are given something that citizens of other countries are not, choices. Government mandates don’t work – just look at the riots over there. Just look at how clustered people live. Look at all the choices of goods and services we have here. Look at the inventions we have that other countries marvel at. Obviously, we have different mindsets. I like the America I know vs. the one you would like us to be. We don’t need to copy Europe. “We” are what made our country great.

John

May 27th, 2011
8:22 am

Jbeggs & Babs,

It’s attitudes like yours that keep unions going. If a company takes a take-it-or leave it attitude towards workers the workers are then encouraged to join the union. The workers who are most taken advantage of in any economy are those who are not unionized and have to work for a company with your attitude. That situation screams for a union.

Babs

May 27th, 2011
8:23 am

Look how Detroit and our auto industry has faired with unions. Unions are so tied into the Federal government, you would no longer have free enterprise if they took over the country. No more competition, total dependency on the government, and more corruption. The main problem with society today is that they would rather rely on the government to delve out their “portion” of what then need than work harder and keep what they earn. Relatively speaking, nothing more than a Socialist mindset.

whodean

May 27th, 2011
8:25 am

Political man, you are going to say that Americans workers are less empowered than low wage earners in most other countries? Over the top much?

Earlybird

May 27th, 2011
8:27 am

One other thing – Vacation is part of compensation. In a free market our labor is something we sell to our employer. If our skill set is in demand, we are fairly compensated for our skills, or we shop around and we have the freedom to take our skills to another employer or start our own business. It is up to company management to be progressive (what do we have to offer to attract or keep the labor force we need to get the job done.) – please never let that be a government decision. If you feel powerless against your employer, you need to develop more skills to increase your value to your employer, or someone else.

jokurone

May 27th, 2011
8:27 am

no respect from our companies we give our blood sweat and tears for. Let’s legislate 1 month paid vacation to all that pay taxes.

commoncents

May 27th, 2011
8:28 am

Why do people thing they are entitled anything? Soon, we’ll be enforced to give the unemployed vacation days where they legally don’t have to search for a job…

I have a feeling those international vacation days don’t help when entire countries (i.e. Greece) go broke and the whole nation strikes because they can’t close their deficit. Then they are forced to pay people to not work all the while the country can’t produce anything that makes money. It’s a death spiral of entitlement that I hope we never see over here

jbeggs

May 27th, 2011
8:29 am

Hey John, it’s not me that keeps unions going – it’s bad employees that have to make the union their crutch. Believe me, I work at a unionized company with the largest union in this country and I see what it does. Trust me when I tell you that if not for the union the occupational employees would be better compensated because the dead wood would have been shown the door earlier. There was a time for unions but that time passed when countries like Japan joinded the production sector.

John

May 27th, 2011
8:30 am

Babs, you blame the poor reliability of American cars, the planned obsolescence, and the unbelievably poor marketing decisions on the unionized workers?

jbeggs

May 27th, 2011
8:32 am

Hey jokurone, …and because the company is now faced with the expense of giving that mandatory vacation and having to pay the stockholders their margin they have to lay off half the work force – good call!!!

jbeggs

May 27th, 2011
8:34 am

Earlybird says it best! It all boils down to who is willing to work/achieve and who is willing to sit back and expect something to beiven to them for nothing. Later dudes!!

PoliticalMan

May 27th, 2011
8:34 am

There is not one person in a thousand that goes into a job interview and actually negotiates with an employer. As are as I know, it is take it or leave it. Virtually no one has those kinds of skills and power. Who is fooling who in these comments. Workers have always had to band together to get anywhere with employers and they used to understand that. Keep on pretending that your “skill set” is all that good and that you equally deal with your employer.

Anybody here ever hear of feudalism – you know, serfs and lords. You might not want to look too closely at your actual working situation. You may find yourself in the 13 th century.

ATL

May 27th, 2011
8:38 am

Having lived in both Europe and the US, all I can say is that I will choose the quality of life in Europe over the US. There is more to quality of life than how much money one makes.

commoncents

May 27th, 2011
8:39 am

John: “you blame the poor reliability of American cars, the planned obsolescence, and the unbelievably poor marketing decisions on the unionized workers?”

To a degree, yes. Large manufacturers (auto, for example) have to pay enormous amount for pensions and wages that were dictated by unions. Since the best way to raise money is to sell something for more than it’s worth, you now have a $20k car selling for $25k. Foreign auto makers sell that $20k car for $20k. When no one buys their inflated cars, then they should go out business, not be inflated with government funds

commoncents

May 27th, 2011
8:39 am

Politicalman 8:34-
I know many people, including myself, who have negotiated with employers before being hired and while working for them for better pay and benefits.

Doug

May 27th, 2011
8:41 am

Why is it that the people who think they are entitled to things are the ones least likely to put the extra effort in or make the decision to better themselves through education? You want guaranteed paid vacation time with a minimum wage job, seriously?? When the US starts mandating free vacation time you wil have people a using it just like unemployment. Take away the abusers and long-term unemployment free loaders and the system will start to work again.

jbeggs

May 27th, 2011
8:42 am

PoliticalMan – start your own company with your own money and make sure you give the employees everything they want – salaries, benie’s, vacation time..all that. Who needs dividends or profits anyway?

commoncents

May 27th, 2011
8:45 am

ATL, then why not go back to Europe? What’s the reason for being here if life is so much better over there?

Sanjeev

May 27th, 2011
8:52 am

I’ve done extensive traveling to Europe for work and while we do lack vacation time as other countries, no one else is getting 10 holidays per year. While most everyone gets it no one really considers it vacation time. So factor is most jobs which start you off with 10 days and 10 days for holidays you’re getting 20 days a year. What the major difference I’ve seen in Europe is sick is unlimited so if you need minor surgery and need to miss 3 days of work you don’t have to use your personal vacation days.

Red

May 27th, 2011
8:58 am

Shrinking wages, shrinking benefits, shrinking vacation time (i.e. checking emails and being ‘available’ while on vacation) is our middle class plight. As long as corporations can make money, they will continue to hire us in ever increasing numbers- oh wait, but they’re not. And then Atlas shrugged.

growing older, but not up

May 27th, 2011
9:02 am

I take my vacation because it’s part of my compensation. But I do (usually) spend 20-30 minutes each morning checking email so that I’m not blindsided when I return. Take care of what I can, delete what I can, and leave the rest for when I return.

Babs

May 27th, 2011
9:05 am

Yes, John, I am saying the unions are responsible for the debacle that has put our auto industry behind others. PoliticalMan, yes you can negotiate with employers, if they feel you’re the most “qualified” person for the position and you bring value to them. I am a recruiter and know how some things work. The company creates the position, they own it an don’t “owe” it to anyone. It’s to their benefit to bring in the personnel that best fits their needs. If they’re afraid of losing the best, then they will negotiate. The operative word here is, negotiate, not meet the demands of the potential employee.

willydoit?

May 27th, 2011
9:14 am

PoliticalMan
Why don’t you start up a business and show everyone that you can run it to European standards?
Start everyone in your organization with 20 days of vacation a year. Then in about 5 years, if you are still in business, your employees will strike because Europe is now giving 25 days and they want the same.

Reality

May 27th, 2011
9:17 am

I am very sick of the flippant comments made by arrogant US people.

Yes, we have (more or less) a free market-place. However, that does not mean that we are not allowed to make things better for our society.

When employers take advantage of the labor pool, we NEED someone to step in to protect the ‘little guy.’ Some things are just not fair and should not be allowed to happen, period.

For example, a company that regularly fires employees just before they become vested for retirement – not fair!

Or, a company that practices age discrimination or any type of discrimination – not fair!

We expect the government (if not unions) to protect us from these types of practices. The problem is that unions have been systematically choked off by the politicans who are being paid by….. the big employers! We now have these large corporations essentially running our government to ensure that our laws suit their needs.

This does not make sense at all!!!

Marz

May 27th, 2011
9:26 am

WOW, I have 4 weeks of vacation time, and trust me, I USE IT ALL!!!!!! I also get 10 paid holidays, 10 paid sick days, and 2 personal days (for a total of 42 PAID days off a year). PLUS my employer pays 100% of our insurance, for the entire FAMILY!!!!! I’ve been here 19 years and I will retire from this place. We haven’t laid anyone off, or hired anyone in well over 10 years. It’s a very small company, only 10 of us here.

I don’t live to work. I work to LIVE……

marcus

May 27th, 2011
9:28 am

This is for Babs, you have been tricked into thinking that everyone can provide everything for themselves. I have lived in Europe and the Middle East, while America is great it could learn somethings for other countries. That is part of the problem in America we have been lead to believe that if you work hard you will get everything you deserve and that isn’t always the case. I love the comment when someone tell someone else to go start a company if everyone in america owned a company who would work. Just because you own a company doesn’t mean you should not treat people with respect and give them a living wage and allow some work life balance. Everyone enjoys a vacation including you. I would argue that America does have some form of a CASTE SYSTEM. I know you love your country and I do to but just imagine that America could be wrong on somethings

SPuchy

May 27th, 2011
9:31 am

Manage your job – don’t let your job manage you.

The older, and more savvy, I’ve become the less I’ve allowed my life to be dictated by the company I work for. If you’re not looking out for number one then you’ll get screwed and used every time. Take advantage of all vacation and personal time offered and shut-off off your cell phone.

Life is short and should be enjoyed along the way – not pent-up and enjoyed when you’re 65.

Buzz G

May 27th, 2011
9:50 am

Much of western Europe takes the entire month of August off. That is one reason why they lag behind Asia in productivity. Often productivity gains can be made by working smarter or increasing capital expenditures. Other times increases in productivity come only from working harder and longer. Sometimes reality sucks. Deal with it.

Homer

May 27th, 2011
9:51 am

I remember a time when I could go on vacation and not worry about returning to a mess because I could delegate some responsibilities to a reliable coworker. Downsizing has killed any chance of having a coworker that would share my job responsibilities. My company issues mobile devices to employees just so that they can work 24X7 thereby avoiding the need to hire additional people to fill a gap. My experience is that you can plan a vacation and within the first 4 hours or your planned vacation something blows up and you end up working while on the beach, in the mountains or whatever setting you are trying to enjoy.

Earlybird

May 27th, 2011
9:53 am

Marcus, wages are earned not given. Using that term is disrespectful to anyone who works for a paycheck. The living wage concept is based on the false idea that if someone works 40 hours, they should earn a living wage. The amount out hours put in is irrelevent. The cost to replace your labor with someone else is what determines your compensation. If your skills are in demand, you will be compensated, if they are not – train yourself.

Yes, we can learn from other countries who do anything better than we do them, but the practices being described, are not those things. In the company that employs me, it is a company mantra that there is one sure way to get fired, and that is to say – “that is the way we have always done it”. Meaning we are always looking for a better way to do anything and everything. That being said, we look for ways to improve, not just change because someone else is doing it. Last time I checked, people weren’t crossing the boarder in droves to get out of this country. Most Americans don’t complain about the invaders who come in and bust their a.. to make something of a life. It is the ones who come in and want entitlement that give the others a bad rap.

Chuck

May 27th, 2011
9:54 am

The study quoted isn’t really “news” it is four years old.

John

May 27th, 2011
9:56 am

Babs,
If you will look at some numbers and at successful Ford, I think you will see that the unions have not stopped Ford from being successful.

Babs

May 27th, 2011
10:04 am

Hey Reality, life isn’t fair and everyone isn’t born equal. As I stated, you aren’t “owed” anything. And for anyone that doesn’t like the way we do things here in the US, then hit the road. If life is better elsewhere, good riddance. As I also stated, the price for freedom is personal responsibility. And no, I’ve not been tricked into thinking anything. I actually research and study history to see what has and hasn’t worked in this country. For all of those that have an “American Idol” or “Jersey Shore” mentality, try spending some time learning the real history of this country, not what we have all been brainwashed with in the public school system. If you really want to know about what runs our economy, you might try “The Creature From Jekyll Island”, now available at B&N. How many of you have read “Atlas Shrugged”? Try that one to get a better grip on why free-enterprise works.

worker bee

May 27th, 2011
10:08 am

Could this have any correlation to why the US is one of the most unhealthy of the industrialized nations? Probably not so get back to work!

Babs

May 27th, 2011
10:19 am

It’s up to people to manage their own lifestyles. For all those that complain about checking e-mails and VMs while on vacation, guess what? You make that choice. You have the power to control the situation, yet most of the time, you want to check these things because you just can’t help yourselves. You complain about not having enough vacation, but you choose to work while on it. Sounds like a lot of people on this board have always had other people do their thinking for them. You have to take control of your own lives. It’s not up to others. It reminds me of this analogy: people complain about the Patriot Act being too invasive in their lives (I’ll bet you won’t hear much about it now that Obama has renewed it), but they’re the same people that have blogs, are on facebook, and twitter endlessly about things that don’t mean c*#%p in the grand scheme of things. They’ll even tell you about personal things you really don’t want to know about in their all self-important worlds.

Worker bee

May 27th, 2011
10:20 am

* emerges weary from a small cubicle in the rat maze* At my job, my pay is not based on huors worked or on productivity. My employer researches other companies in the field and pays based on the market rate. It sucks! I am not compensated for my abilities or a job well done! I’m compenstated based on what some else is paid! Of course, the other companies are doing the same so there is no “out”. *retreats back to the small cubicle in the rat maze*

PoliticalMan

May 27th, 2011
10:23 am

ATLAS SHRUGGED – One of the most simplistic, preachy books ever written. Serious people use it to weight down trash on the curb.