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10 July 2006

America: Land of the free?

It has always surprised me that in the US, where holidays are valued and children get about 6 weeks more annual holiday than the UK, that adults get such a derisory amount of annual vacation.

Americans have more disposable income than many other countries, value family time, have a very well developed leisure and recreation economy yet have next to no time to enjoy it in.

The standard annual vacation when you join a US company is 10 days (plus about 9 federal holidays). So there goes your two week break in the summer then. Take that and there's no time off at any other time of the year. The standard UK holidays are 20 days minumum with at least 25 being more usual. Then there's usually 8 public holidays on top of that. This year, I have 34 days annual leave, 33 of which I can take when I choose. This is against a background of most independent observers saying that people in the UK work too hard and work more than our European neighbours.

Perhaps an American company could offer European holidays, with a corresponding reduction in salary and see how much more productive its workforce becomes when they can enjoy all that money they've earned, spend time with their families, enjoy recreational time and get enough holiday to have a decent break abroad.

Would Americans take an 6% salary cut for an extra three weeks of annual leave to bring them onto a par with Europe or would Europeans prefer a 6% raise to get American holidays? Most of us need the money, but how much holiday is enough for a productive and happy workforce?
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