America's war on vacation: By the numbers
A new study confirms that U.S. employers are pretty stingy when it comes to paid time off
Is this your idea of a vacation?
Is this your idea of a vacation? Courtesy Shutterstock

Now that Memorial Day weekend is over, Americans are eagerly entering the summer vacation season. Most of us can look forward to a few days — or even weeks — of hard-earned rest and relaxation. But a new report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research shows that not everyone will be so lucky. That's because the U.S. remains the only advanced economy on Planet Earth that doesn't guarantee all workers at least a minimal number of paid days off. Here's a look, by the numbers, at just how stingy the nation's businesses can be with vacation time:

Percentage of American workers who get no paid vacation time. The same percentage gets no paid holidays, either.

Percentage of part-time U.S. workers who get paid vacation.

Percentage of full-time U.S. workers entitled to vacation as part of their compensation.

Legally mandated paid holidays in the U.S.

Developed nations — out of 21 — where all workers are guaranteed paid vacation. The U.S. is the lone holdout.

Average number of vacation days U.S. full-time employees get after a year on the job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Average vacation days American full-timers get after 25 years on the job.

Average days of paid vacation and holidays Americans receive per year. Of the 20 other rich nations in the study, only Japanese workers fared worse.

Paid vacation days required in Japan.

Required vacation days in France, the global vacation leader.

Combined required vacation days and holidays in Austria and Portugal, which lead in total days off required by law.

Share of small-business employees, by percent, who get paid vacation in the U.S.

Percentage of large-company employees getting vacation time.

Percentage of low-wage workers in America given at least a minimal amount of paid time off.

Percentage of high-earners in the U.S. who get paid vacation.

European nations with regulations that entitle people to take at least some of their paid leave during the peak summer vacation season.

Percentage of American workers who had unused vacation time — up to two weeks' worth — at the end of 2011, according to a Harris Interactive survey.

175 million
Number of vacation days American workers are entitled to, but don't take, in the typical year.

Sources:, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Center for Economic and Policy Research, CNBC, The Atlantic

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami HeraldFox News, and ABC News.


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