Annual leave around the world

Posted by Damien on Aug 21, 2015

I now live in California, but I grew up and spent much of my adult life in Australia. A great place. Clive James (a great Australian) writes eloquently about the successful liberal democracy Australia is. For me, his words invoke a place where the idea of a “fair go” is a social aim, and when compared to just about anywhere else, is largely attained.

This is exemplified in the way Australia treats its workers. Through the National Employment Standards, all Australian workers are provided 10 minimum employment entitlements. One of these is a minimum of 4 weeks paid annual leave. That’s right, in all Australian states and territories, paid annual leave is enforceable by law.

But Australia is not unique in this regard. Countries like Russia (28 days), the United Kingdom (28 days, incl. Bank Holidays), Austria (25 days, or 30 days if employed for more than 25 years) and Brazil, Denmark, Finland, France, and Sweden (all 25 days) have more paid leave. In fact, I was surprised to learn there are 49 countries that guarantee more paid leave for their workers than Australia.

As for the United States, much has been written about this “no vacation nation”. Before arriving here, I had heard that most Americans are entitled to just 2 weeks vacation per year, but I didn’t know that American workers have no guaranteed paid vacation time. The United States is unique among developed western nations1 in this regard. This gives rise to the situation where 1-in-4 American workers get no paid vacation2 time at all.

Like most people, I’m someone who loves to travel and take time off to refresh and reset. I can’t see how this lack of guaranteed paid vacation time is good for American workers, or good for American productivity. Admittedly, I’m new here but other people like Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, and Representative from Florida Alan Grayson, seem to agree. And if you got a chance to ask, President Barack Obama would probably agree too, but he’s having trouble getting paid sick leave and maternity leave for American workers through the house.

So as I sit here thinking of all the great things about America, I’m confronted by one of the not so great things. I have just booked tickets for a trip to Italy while I currently have -6.56 hours of paid vacation time owing.

First world problems, you say? You’d be right. Workers in Angola, Burkina Faso, and even Iran get more paid holidays than me.

  1. Hosted with permission from the Center for Economic Policy and Research ( 

  2. Ibid. 

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