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USA only big economy without paid vacation guarantee

Tuesday 9 July 2013 17:40 CEST

Paid vacationThe United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR).


European countries establish legal rights to at least 20 days of paid vacation per year, with legal requirements of 25 and even 30 or more days in some countries. Australia and New Zealand both require employers to grant at least 20 vacation days per year; Canada and Japan mandate at least 10 paid days off.

The gap between paid time off in the United States and the rest of the world is even larger if we include legally mandated paid holidays, where the United States offers none, but most of the rest of the world's rich countries offer at least six paid holidays per year.

In the absence of government standards, almost one in four Americans has no paid vacation (23 percent) and no paid holidays (23 percent). According to government survey data, the average worker in the private sector in the United States receives only about ten days of paid vacation and about six paid holidays per year: less than the minimum legal standard set in the rest of world's rich economies excluding Japan (which guarantees only 10 paid vacation days and requires no paid holidays).

The paid vacation and paid holidays that employers do make available are distributed unequally.

According to the same government survey data, only half of low-wage workers (bottom fourth of earners) have any paid vacation (49 percent), compared to 90 percent of high-wage workers (top fourth of earners). The same is true for part-timers, who are far less likely to have paid vacations (35 percent) than are full-timers (91 percent).

The problems of low-wage and part-time workers are magnified if they are employed in small establishments, where only 69 percent have paid vacations, compared to 86 percent in medium and large establishments. Even when low-wage, part-time, and small-business employees do receive paid vacations, they typically receive far fewer paid days off than higher-wage, full-time, employees in larger establishments.

For example, low-wage workers with a vacation benefit received only nine days of paid vacation per year in 2012, compared to 16 days of paid vacation for high-wage workers with paid vacations. If we look at all workers - those who receive paid vacations and those who don't - the vacation gap between low-wage and highwage workers is even larger: only four days for low-wage workers, compared to 14 days for highwage workers.

This report reviews the most recently available data from a range of national and international sources on statutory requirements for paid vacations and paid holidays in 21 rich countries (16 European countries, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and the United States).

In addition to the Center for Economic and Policy Research's finding that the United States is the only country in the group that does not require employers to provide paid vacation time, CEPR also note that several foreign countries offer additional time off for younger and older workers, shift workers, and those engaged in community service including jury duty.

Five countries even mandate that employers pay vacationing workers a small premium above their standard pay in order to help with vacation-related expenses. Most other rich countries have also established legal rights to paid holidays over and above paid vacation days.

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