U.S. shame: the only OECD country with no paid vacation

Canada lags badly in survey of paid vacation and paid holidays among 21 OECD countries


Ottawa (4 July 2007) - The United States ranks last among 21 industrialized countries in the number of days of paid vacation and holidays it guarantees workers by law, says a study by the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research.

So complete is the corporate grip on the American psyche that no day in the year, not even July 4, the most patriotic U.S. holiday of all, is a paid holiday guaranteed by law. What paid time off workers get is decided by their employers, or negotiated on their behalf by unions.

The U.S. is unique among countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in having no statutory requirements for employers to provide any paid vacation or paid holidays for their workers. It boils down to a utopia for employers.

The report, No-Vacation Nation by Rebecca Ray and John Schmitt, concludes that "relying on businesses to voluntarily provide paid leave" for workers has failed miserably.

"It’s a national embarrassment that 28 million Americans (one in four workers) don’t get any paid vacation or paid holidays,” the report says.

The situation is most critical for "lower-wage, part-time, and small-business employees" who fare the worst of all. "When they do receive paid time off, the amount they receive is far less generous than what is available to their higher-wage, full-time counterparts with larger employers," the study adds.

Japan and Canada

Japan ranks second from the bottom with just 10 legally-required paid days of vacation each year and no paid statutory holidays. Canada ranks third from the bottom with 10 paid days of vacation legislated by law and eight paid holidays.

The Canadian numbers are averages, since vacation laws are established individually by the provinces. "Most provinces set higher vacation minimums for workers with higher seniority," the study notes.

Paid Vacation and Paid Holidays
Study of OECD countries by Centre for Economic and Policy Research
Country Vacation Holidays Total
Finland 30 9 39
Austria 22 13 35
Portugal 22 13 35
Germany 24 10 34
Spain 22 12 34
Italy 20 13 33
France 30 1 31
Belgium 20 10 30
Denmark 20 9 29
Ireland 20 9 29
Norway 25 2 27
Australia 20 7 27
New Zealand 20 7 27
Greece 20 6 26
Sweden 25 0 25
Netherlands 20 0 20
United Kingdom 20 0 20
Canada 10 8 18
Japan 10 0 10
United States 0 0 0


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring that our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

More information:
No Vacation Nation - Center for Economic and Policy Research

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