Euro Workers Enjoy More Vacation Than Americans

May 7, 2002
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LONDON—European workers get more vacation time and paid holidays than their American counterparts. In fact, many Europeans get more than twice as many paid days off than the average U.S. worker does.

According to a study done by an international human resources consulting company, William M. Mercer Inc., workers across the European Union who have been on the job for five years get from 29 to 43 days of annual leave and public holidays each year – depending on which country they live in.

“Despite the moves to harmonize employment practices in Europe, we have still a long way to go in this area,” said Adelaide Barbier, William M. Mercer research manager.

The average “leave,” as it’s called overseas, and public-holiday entitlements across all European states is 36 days. Compare that number to the average two weeks of vacation and half-dozen holidays that most Americans receive.

Austria, Germany and Sweden provide their workers with the most time off -- 43, 42 and 41 days, respectively.

At the low end, Belgium and the United Kingdom offer employees 31 days, while Ireland only gives workers 29 days a year off the job. Still, that’s more days than the 16 to 21 that comparable American employees are granted.

On average, Europeans receive between 23 to 25 days of leave annually, along with11 public holidays each year. And they don’t get more time off because they work longer hours than Americans, either.

The average European five-day workweek compares favorably with that of Americans, as it ranges from 37 to 40 hours weekly.

France has a maximum of 35 hours per week, while Denmark, the UK and Ireland mandate a 48-hour week.

So why do workers in Europe get more time off? Largely because European lawmakers have passed legislation requiring a set number of vacation and holiday days.

“Interestingly, the U.S. is one of the very few nations globally that has not established maximum hours or annual leave entitlements through formal legislation. Normal leave entitlement in the U.S. and Canada is amongst the lowest in the world,” the Mercer study reported.

Mercer’s report on vacation time was part of its global analysis of employment conditions and benefits in 55 countries worldwide. The findings can be found in its Worldwide Benefit and Employment Guidelines 2000-01, a four-volume collection.

For more information, one may visit www.wmmercer.com.

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