In some countries, paid vacation time is guaranteed.

By Alison Fox
November 03, 2019
Johner Images/Getty Images

Scrolling through vacation pictures on Instagram and drooling over white sandy beaches and cool piña coladas while sitting under the fluorescent lighting of your office sounds downright sad. But unfortunately, it’s an all-too-real reality for many Americans.

Americans are not guaranteed paid vacation time — and while many U.S. workers receive two or three weeks of vacation, it still falls short of other developed nations. For example, workers in France are guaranteed 30 paid vacation days each year, according to a 2019 study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research. In the U.S., 91 percent of high-wage workers received at least some paid vacation this year, according to the study. But only 52 percent of lower-wage workers were given paid vacation.

“Workers in the European Union are legally guaranteed at least 20 paid vacation days per year, with some countries mandating 25, or even 30 or more days,” Eileen Appelbaum, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, told Travel + Leisure in an email. “In the [U.S.], count yourself as lucky if your job offers paid vacation and holidays.”

And when Americans do get paid vacation, they don’t necessarily use it. According to a separate study by the U.S. Travel Association, 55 percent of workers said they did not use all of their allotted time off in 2018.

“When I see how many vacation days went unused, I don’t just see a number — I see … missed opportunities to recharge, experience something new and connect with family and friends,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement.

Here is what vacation looks like in the U.S. and other rich nations according to data from the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

U.S.

In the U.S. there is no federally mandated vacation time. According to Appelbaum, New York City has come the closest with proposed legislation to mandate paid vacation.

England

In the U.K., workers are guaranteed at least 28 days of paid vacation, but are not guaranteed any paid time off for holidays.

France

French workers have 30 guaranteed paid days off, more than the European Union mandates, as well as one paid holiday.

Sweden

In Sweden, workers are guaranteed at least 25 paid vacation days, as well as 11 paid holidays. Additionally, employers in Sweden are required to provide workers with the option to schedule their leave in blocks.

Japan

Japanese workers are guaranteed at least 10 paid vacation days and 15 paid holidays. But as you grow in seniority, you get more days. In Japan, employees who have been working longer than 18 months at their current jobs receive an increase of one vacation day per year of employment, up to a maximum of 20 days.

Australia

In Australia, workers receive 20 guaranteed paid vacation days as well as eight paid holidays. If you don’t use all your days in Australia, you can cash out untaken annual leave exceeding the minimum of four weeks.

Canada

Canadian workers are guaranteed 10 paid vacation days each year and nine paid holidays. This paid time off is one of the lowest guaranteed by wealthy nations, but varies from province to province. In Canada, most provinces grant workers another week of paid vacation after they work for five to 10 years.

Spain

Workers in Spain are guaranteed 25 paid vacation days and 14 paid holidays. Additionally, Spanish employees get paid leave for things like jury service, moving, getting married, or things related to union work.

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