6/6/2013 7:04 PM ET|
Land of the free -- and no mandated vacation time
The US is the only developed nation that doesn't legally guarantee paid vacation and holiday time for its workers.
The Center for Economic and Policy Research recently reviewed vacation and holiday laws around the world and found that "in the absence of government standards, almost one in four Americans has no paid vacation (23%) and no paid holidays (23%)."
The center also quotes government data in its study showing that the average person employed in the U.S. private sector gets about 10 paid days of vacation and six paid holidays annually. That's less than the minimum legal standard set in every economically developed country except Japan -- and even Japan mandates at least 10 paid days off annually.
If you're at the financial bottom of the workplace totem pole, your chances of getting a paid day off decrease. Only 49% of low-wage workers -- that is, people in the lowest fourth of earners -- receive any paid vacation. That compares with 90% of those in the top fourth, who do get paid vacations and holidays.
In fact, if you look at all U.S. workers, the vacation gap becomes even wider: Low-wage employees get four days off, compared with 14 for their better-paid counterparts. And if you work part time, your chances of getting a paid day off are even slimmer, at 35%, compared with 91% for full-time employees.
Looking at the study's chart of vacation days in the world's richest countries, one can easily argue that the nations with the most generous days off -- such as France, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece -- are also in the most dire economic straits these days.
"All those people with four weeks off may be the critical factor to lax worker behavior, and that almost certainly does not help GDP," Douglas McIntyre recently blogged at 24/7 Wall St. "In the United States, on the other hand, labor is uninterrupted, and that drives an efficient workplace."
You can also argue that less time off has placed the U.S. among global leaders in productivity. Wednesday's Bureau of Labor Statistics report says productivity increased at a 0.5% annual rate during the first quarter of 2013. Over the same time, however, hourly compensation fell by 3.8% -- the largest decline since that set of statistics was first compiled in 1947.
The sluggish economy, along with the difficulty in finding stable, full-time work, allows companies to ask more of their employees. A 2012 survey by Right Management found only 30% of American workers use all the time off they're allowed.
"Such a reluctance to take all of one's vacation is a sign of an intense, pressure-filled workplace," Monika Morrow, a Right Management senior vice president, noted in a press statement. "However important devotion to the job may be," she added, "there has to be some balance, and vacation is so important to one’s health and happiness."
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You don't have to sign up for Medicare. The catch? If you don't enroll when you're first eligible, you could pay some serious financial penalties later in life.
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