No-Vacation Nation

Italy is a country known for having long holidays and for making family a priority over work. Many Italians holiday for a month at a time – have you ever visited Italy in the month of August? The country is not alone. The European Union requires member countries to grant workers a minimum of 20 working days of paid vacation. But, many nations go well above that number: France offers 30 paid days off, Austria and Spain 25. These required paid vacation days are on top of the country’s respective paid holiday days. 

America is the exact opposite. It has even been dubbed a “no-vacation nation.” The U. S. mandates no paid holiday or vacation days. That is zero days of required yearly time off. While the U.S. government does not enforce paid leave, many American companies offer time off as an employee benefit. But, how does it compare to Italian companies?

Italy requires employers to offer a minimum of 4 weeks or 20 days paid holiday (vacation) time. Many contracts, particularly for state employees, allow for 28 days or five weeks of paid leave per year. This holiday time is in addition to Italy’s 12 National Public Holidays. Most full-time employees are legally entitled to these 12 Public Holidays off and most businesses in all but the biggest cities in the country are closed on these dates. Some regions of Italy also take an extra day off to celebrate their local patron saint. Most Italian employees will also receive up to 104 hours of Riduzione Orario di Lavoro (ROL), working time reduction, annually. This time is intended for things like going to the bank or taking a child to the doctor.

Americans take significantly fewer days off compared to employees in other nations. The main reason for that is because American companies offer fewer vacation days. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, three-quarters of American workers had access to paid vacations in 2018. Of those, 36 percent had access to consolidated leave plans, a plan that provides a single amount of time off for workers to use for vacation, illness, etc. The number of paid days off in the U.S. is typically dependent upon the length of service at a company. In 2018, the average paid vacation days were 14 days at 1 year of service and 24 days at 20 years of service. Interestingly, Americans are granted fewer days off and they use fewer of the days available to them. Of these days offered, U.S. employees used an average of 17 days of paid time off in 2018. According to multiple surveys, half of American workers feel guilty taking their vacation time. In 2017, Americans left 768 million days of paid time off unused, according to research by the U.S. Travel Association. The U.S. celebrates 10 Federal Holidays including Columbus Day. Most major companies are closed on these holidays or have shortened hours and full-time employees see these as paid holiday hours. 

According to the International Monetary Fund, the United States has the largest economy in the world with a GDP of 21.41 trillion while Italy is ranked eighth (2.26 trillion). Do you think paid holiday and vacation time is directly linked to a country’s economics? Share your thoughts with us in next month’s La Tavola Rotonda!