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How many paid vacation days do workers in other countries get?

According to the CEPR one in four US workers receive no paid vacation days at all, whether public holidays or privately through their employers.

How does the US stack up in terms of paid vacations?

There is an enduring fascination with where in the world is the best place to live. Whether it be in terms of happiness, the human development index, work-life balance, salaries, or simply the weather or gastronomy, there are endless lists compiled each year to determine which country tops the list in one respect or another. Finland, for example, tops the 2022 happiness index for a fifth year, with Nordic countries always placing high up alongside the like of Switzerland, Luxembourg and New Zealand. The barometer for happiness, per the World Happiness Report, takes in matters such as life expectancy, GDP per capita, personal freedoms, socio-economic considerations and community spirit etc., and in 2022 the compilers found that covid-19 had also played a part, with volunteering and helping one another adding to a feeling of wellbeing among the highest-scoring countries.

On the other side of the coin, imagine an index where Iran tops the list, followed by countries including Andorra, Burkina Faso, Kazakhstan, Panama and Sri Lanka, and the US ranks bottom, in line with Kiribati, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Tonga. It will probably come as little surprise to Americans to find such a ranking involves paid vacations.

US paid vacations at employers’ discretion

The US enjoys a certain notoriety for employer reluctance to lavish paid leave on workers, and there is no statutory minimum for paid public holidays or paid vacation laid out under federal or state law. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, around 77% of private employers do provide paid leave, both during public holidays and for vacations. However, this is generally doled out on an incremental scale, with 10 days after one year of employment, 14 days after five years, 17 days after 10 years and 20 days after 20 years a fairly standard rule of thumb. On average, American workers get eight days of paid leave for public holidays.

Compared to the generous vacation allowances in other countries, it is little wonder that American workers are feeling the pinch. According to a survey conducted by job aggregator side Indeed, 52% of Americans experienced burnout in 2021, with 43% reporting burnout in the same company’s survey taken before the covid-19 pandemic. Among millennials, 53% reported feeling burned out before the pandemic, a number that rose to 59% after covid.

Furthermore, a pre-pandemic report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington showed that one in four Americans receive no annual paid vacation time whatsoever.

OECD a workers’ paradise

By contrast to US vacation figures, a report by the 38-nation OECD showed that among its members workers can expect between 30 to 40 days of combined paid annual leave, with countries such as Austria (13), France (11), Spain (14), and South Korea (15) enjoying as many paid public vacation days as many Americans do total annual paid leave.

Outside the OECD, the numbers spike dramatically, with Iran, where workers get a full month of paid vacation time on top of 27 paid public holidays (for a total of 53 days) topping an unofficial list. Workers in Cambodia also get 27 days of paid public holidays, with the overall total rising to 45 depending on seniority.

There are several countries that operate a similar system of accrued days per year of service - Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, France, Luxembourg, Russia, and Taiwan – where employees can eventually earn over 40 or even 50 paid vacation days per year, but only a handful worldwide where 40 is the established minimum between public vacation days and paid work leave.

Countries with 40+ days of paid vacation time (including public holidays)

  • Algeria
  • Andorra
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bahrain
  • Burkina Faso
  • Cambodia
  • Iran (53)
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kuwait
  • Malta
  • Panama
  • Peru
  • Slovakia
  • Sri Lanka
  • UAE