Most American workers don't take their full vacation time

November 09, 2015, 2:17 PM GMT+0

Most American workers don't take their full vacation time each year, and at only 12 days a year the average American has far less time off than workers in other countries

Statistics abound on the relative work ethics of different countries. During the Eurozone and Greek debt crises, critics slipped into the habit of blaming the economic situation on laid back, siesta-taking southern Europeans. In fact Greece ranks fourth among OECD countries for average annual hours actually worked. Meanwhile German workers, who enjoy a reputation for working very hard, actually work the least of anyone in the OECD. The United States, meanwhile, works some of the longest hours in the developed world. Americans may not work much more each week, on average, than their European counterparts but American workers enjoy no right to paid vacation, while in most European countries workers are entitled to at least four weeks vacation each year plus public holidays.

New YouGov research from around the world reveals that when it comes to vacation Americans have fewer vacation days and are less likely to take even these than anyone in a European country. 

Out of 22 countries worldwide, spanning North America, the Middle East, Asia, Australia and Europe, Americans are the fourth least likely (44%) to say that they take 'all' or 'almost all' of their paid vacation time each year. Out of OECD countries only Australians are as likely to not take their vacation, but the legal Australian minimum vacation time is 20 days a year compared to a median vacation time of 12 days in the United States. Our data shows on average Americans receive only one more day off (12) than Chinese workers (11).

In the UK, by comparison, 75% of workers take their full vacation time, with the median British worker enjoying a huge 27 paid days off each year. 

There tends to be little correlation between the number of days off workers receive and the amount they end up taking. In Saudi Arabia and Algeria average workers get 30 days leave, yet only 51% and 48% respectively say they will take all or nearly all of it. However in Saudi Arabia, fully 21% of workers who say they won't take all of their holiday this year cite pressure from their boss as a reason.

The most popular reason worldwide for not taking the full holiday allowance is wanting to carry some over to next year (34% choose this on average), followed by 'I mean to but I never get round to it' (14%) and 'I don't have enough reason to take holiday'. A commonly referenced reason for working harder – not wanting to appear lazy to colleagues and employers – is rarely chosen (6% on average), however in China the figure reaches 13%.