Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Why Don't U.S. Workers Take Vacations?
51 million American workers do not use all their vacation time. According to The Christian Science Monitor, "they're too busy, and they can't afford to travel." The average American worker gets only 15 days off - 9 paid vacation days and 6 paid holidays per year. In contrast, "by law, Europeans have the right to at least 20 days of paid time off per year. Some countries guarantee 25 or 30 days." It gets worse. 31 percent of workers earning less that $15 per hour, 12 percent of workers earning $15 per hour or more, and 25 percent of all workers get no paid time off at all.
Of those who do get paid vacation time, 45 percent did not use all their days in 2006. Nonetheless, 43 percent workers claim they want more paid vacation. And who can blame them? But would we take our vacation days even if we had more of them? Are we all workaholics - or is it something else? Experts claim workers forfeit vacation time to show their loyalty to the company - behavior that is frequently conditioned by peer pressure. "A lot of people give up vacation days because they see their boss or co-workers giving up their days," one expert claims. "This creates a vicious cycle in which no one wants to be the first to take all their days." Despite all this, "everyone wants the culture to change."
Some workers simply can't afford to travel, due to increased debt and the rising cost of gasoline. They take shorter vacations, or "simply stay home, taking what is called a 'staycation'." Some speculate that married couples who both work may have trouble synchronizing vacation time and often forego taking vacations altogether. Conversely, unmarried workers unburdened by the pressure to schedule family vacations - not to mention young workers still paying off their student loans - may choose to work instead. The percentage of all these groups is increasing in the workplace, driving down the number of American workers who are willing and able to take time off. Even 20 percent of those who actually plan vacations eventually have to cancel or postpone them.
Yet many consultants and academics see the advantages of taking a break. Families can benefit enormously from more time spent together. Vacations can even be good for business. According to labor economist Wallace Huffman, "Productivity could increase by up to 60 percent for employees in the month or two following a good vacation..."
"For US workers, a vacation deprivation" from The Christian Science Monitor