Besides a handful of national holidays, the typical American worker bee gets two or three precious weeks off out of a whole year to relax and see the world — much less than what people in many other countries receive.
And even that amount of vacation often comes with strings attached.
Some U.S. companies don’t like employees taking off more than one week at a time. Others expect them to be on call or check their e-mail even when they’re lounging on the beach or taking a hike in the mountains…
A big reason for the difference is that paid time off is mandated by law in many parts of the world.
Germany is among more than two dozen industrialized countries — from Australia to Slovenia to Japan — that require employers to offer four weeks or more of paid vacation to their workers, according to a 2009 study by the human resources consulting company Mercer.
Finland, Brazil and France are the champs, guaranteeing six weeks of time off.
But employers in the United States are not obligated under federal law to offer any paid vacation, so about a quarter of all American workers don’t have access to it, government figures show.
That makes the U.S. the only advanced nation in the world that doesn’t guarantee its workers annual leave, according to a report titled “No-Vacation Nation" by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a liberal policy group…
"There is simply no evidence that working people to death gives you a competitive advantage," said John de Graaf, the national coordinator for Take Back Your Time, a group that researches the effects of overwork.
He noted that the United States came in fourth in the World Economic Forum’s 2010-2011 rankings of the most competitive economies, but Sweden — a country that by law offers workers five weeks of paid vacation — came in second.
De Graaf drafted the first version of the Paid Vacation Act of 2009, which would have required larger companies to provide at least one week of paid annual leave to employees. But the bill, introduced by then-Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Florida, in May of 2009, got little traction.
America is not a very friendly place for people who want to work for a living. Not only do we not get significantly less vacation time, we also have a lower minimum wage (despite evidence that raising the minimum wage is good for employment) and overall less social and economic mobility than many other first world countries. Meanwhile, we’re continuing to give more tax breaks to the wealthy and cutting social services to increase economic mobility for the poor.