Vacations look quite a bit different across the pond.
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Taking a break from work is essential. Not only does it provide quality time with family and friends, but it also allows us to step away and reset, returning to our jobs refreshed and clear-headed. And while studies tout the importance of taking time off, many U.S. companies still keep their employees on a tight leash, providing minimal vacation days. The result is a workforce that's often obliged to push through looming burnout in an effort to make it to that long-awaited (but never long enough) vacation.

The U.S. is renowned for its less than stellar work conditions in this area, but in an effort to see how it really stacks up, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a economic organization with 38 member countries, ran the numbers. The 2020 study is somewhat dated, but provides our best guess on how paid time off in the U.S. compares to other nations with advanced economies — from Australia and Austria to Chile and Canada.

Hallstatt Village and Hallstatter See lake in Austria
Credit: serts/Getty Images

The study reviewed each member country's statutory paid annual leave policy for full-time private sector employees who have been working for their current employer for one year. It also incorporated public holidays to show the total number of days an employee can take off work while still being paid.

It's not surprising that three European countries topped the charts for their generous paid time off. Austria was ranked No. 1 for providing workers with 25 days of paid annual leave and 13 public holidays, bringing the total number of paid time off to 38. France and Spain followed with 36 each, then South Korea with 31 total days. Other countries with high annual leave (both paid time off and public holidays) include Germany with 30, the U.K. with 28, and Japan with 26.

The U.S. reported 10 days total, almost four times less than Austria. Perhaps most notably, all 10 of those days are public holidays, as the U.S. is the only OECD country that does not provide a statutory minimum annual leave entitlement for employees at a federal level. That means the choice to provide annual paid time off is up to the company. And while some organizations choose to provide their employees with 10 to 15 days of paid leave on top of the 10 holidays, it's not required.

Perhaps most concerning, a pre-pandemic report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that one in four workers in the U.S. don't get any paid vacation time or holidays.