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?

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Part of the reason the US is so prosperous is that its workforce is more productive and hard-working than just about anywhere else in the world.

Given a choice, though, I'm sure many people over there would like to adjust the work-life balance a bit.

My current and previous employers here in the UK both have schemes allowing the individual to adjust the amount of annual leave in exchange for more or less salary, with reasonable upper and lower limits.

That is the way forward, in my opinion.

Andy said...

"Would you take an 6% salary cut for an extra three weeks of annual leave? The rest of the world would seem to agree...."

Heck no!

Zizzy said...

I'd gladly trade 6% for extra leave. I could probably make up the diffence doing a couple of side jobs and still have plenty of extra leave left over. Besides, that's less $$$ the government can get there grubby hands on.

Kevin D. Korenthal said...

Ah yes, another lazy European tells productive Americans: "Slow down, you're making us look bad". Good grief!

Anonymous said...

Don't be so arrogant. I work here in the states and i can tell you that the legendary productivity is a myth. I have worked with people in the UK who start at nine and finish at 5 who get more done in a day that some of the so called dedicated colleagues I have here.

America is a study in burn out. The reality here is the same as in the rest of the world, most companies are carried by a dedicated few, the remainder fill in the blanks when they can be bothered to stop posting comments on blogs (oooops)

Craig Cockburn said...

Following on from this review and lazy Europeans, it reminded me of the US educational system where US students typically get a 3 month break compared to Scottish students who get 6-8 weeks. As a result, I have written this article for more information:

US and Scottish education compared.

Lal said...

I agree with annoymous.

I've worked back and forth between US/EU for several years and do believe there are myths on both sides.

The US could do with more vacation time/chilling and the EU could do with more liberal labor laws.

Thats a very generalistic comment and varys enormously by sector/region/different companies etc.

There is also a difference (changing now with globalisation and wealth spreading) in living standards, whats deemed 2 b important, material assets, house/cars etc..
So sometimes a lot of "work habits" are based on lifestyle and not just a productivity stat

Anonymous said...

Very amused to see Kevin Korenthal posting about "productive Americans." His charity job "working" for the Republican Party in California consists of writing a personal blog all day. And maybe putting non-existant people on the voting lists. He doesn't need any more holiday time. What he needs is to be forced to do some real work sometime.

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