I live in America and I’m taking some vacation days this summer. We are the only advanced country in which there is no legally guaranteed paid leave. I work for myself so I get to determine how much time off I want and what amount of money I will not earn while I’m on vacation. Others are not so fortunate.
Europeans Get the Most Days Off
According to a report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, European countries lead the world in guaranteeing paid leave for its workers. Among OECD countries, 16 of the 18 most generous governments when it comes to paid vacation are European.
Spain and Germany are among the most holiday-happy, both offering 34 days of paid leave each year. Italy and France guarantee 31 days of paid vacation, and Belgium requires 30. These numbers include both mandatory vacation and public holidays.
The United States is the only nation among advanced economies that does not provide a legal guarantee of paid vacations. New Zealand and Australia ensure respectively 30 and 28 days of paid leave, and Canada’s federal government stipulates 19 paid days, with some provinces adding on additional time. Even in Japan, where thousands commit suicide every year because of work-related stress, all employees are guaranteed 10 paid vacation days.
Many Americans Are Provided Paid Leave
There are many American companies that do provide paid leave. According to CEPR, 77 percent of private sector companies offer employees at least some paid vacation, and those workers get an average of 21 paid days.
Still, that leaves nearly 1 in 4 Americans without any guarantee of paid time off from work. Those workers are noticeably overrepresented in the lower classes. The lack of paid vacation and paid holidays is particularly acute for low-wage workers, part-time workers, and for employees of small businesses.
The U.S. federal government, the largest American employer, does provide paid leave for its own employees, but the amount depends on seniority, and even those with 15 or more years of service are only guaranteed 26 days a year. All federal employees get paid on the 10 annual federal holidays as well.
We Are Working 160 Hours More/Job-Stress Costs $344 Billion Annually
In America we are working one month (160 hours) more a year than we did in 1976, the second year of my career in psychology. We know the stress all workers are under. We know the stress of working women, two parents’ income to make ends meet, and the stress of the entrepreneur desiring freedom while working 60 and 70 hour work weeks.
Modern research tells us that job-related stress contributes to absenteeism, lost productivity, and health issues, and these factors cost businesses approximately $344 billion annually.
Having vacation time for everyone in the United States would allow workers to spend more time with their families, improve their mental and physical health, and ultimately be more productive in their workplace.
Working More Makes Americans Happier Than Europeans
Working more makes Americans happier than Europeans, according to a study published recently in the Journal of Happiness Studies. That may be because Americans believe more than Europeans do that hard work is associated with success, wrote Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn, the study’s author and an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Dallas.
Americans maximize their happiness by working, and Europeans maximize their happiness through leisure, he found.
So despite research documenting the health and productivity benefits of taking time off, a long vacation can be undesirable, scary, unrealistic or just plain impossible for many U.S. workers.
Well, I have decided to be courageous, healthy, happy and realistic so I’m taking lots of time off. If you don’t receive regular newsletters or see new Blogs here for a few months, please be understanding. Instead, download my Happiness Kit and you won’t be disappointed. I will be in some sunny paradise taking a break from work and adding to my happiness quotient. (I hope you do the same!)
Dr. Happiness saying farewell or goodbye until the next entry… or “adios”, “lebewohl”, “arrivederci”, “da svedanya”, “farvel”, “la revedere”, “da veezhdanye”, “sbohem”, and “au revoir”.
Call me at 702-242-4222 or email me after my vacation to talk about your needs for time off and “il dolce far niente.”