Work days take up the majority of the year, yet the much shorter annual leave and holiday periods hold a central importance to employees everywhere. You don't have to be living (or working) for the weekend or your summer vacation to realize that time off is crucial in order to unwind, spend time with family and come back to work refreshed. Still, the number of statutory vacation days as well as public holidays differs widely across the globe, offering some workers more respite than others.
The following graph looks at the minimum statutory leave that full-time workers in different countries are entitled to after having completed one year with their employer. In reality, the average time off employees receive is actually higher in some countries due to rules that grant extra vacation days based on seniority or public bargaining.
Among OECD countries, Austria is in the lead with 38 days of statutory minimum paid leave plus public holidays. Spain and France - two countries known in Europe for their generous time off - also score high at 36 days each. In Germany and the UK, guaranteed time off is shorter at 30 and 28 days, respectively. However, many Germans receive around 30 days of annual leave - even if they don't work union jobs in which this number of days is usually agreed upon. Furthermore, depending on the federal state they live in, some Germans enjoy up to 14 public holidays per year, potentially upping their holiday allotment to a whopping 44 days.
In South Korea and Japan, numerous public holidays take up a larger share of time off work. While Koreans also receive 16 days of statutory leave per year, the minimum vacation day allowance is rather slim at just ten days per year in Japan. However, employees there gain vacation days with seniority up until a maximum of 20 days of annual leave.
All this is still far better than the situation of workers in the United States. The country is the only advanced economy that doesn't guarantee paid vacation, leaving employees with only ten guaranteed public holidays. Even though some companies are generous and provide their employees with up to 15 days of paid leave annually, a pre-pandemic study found that one in four Americans don't receive any paid vacation leave. In neighboring Canada, employees receive ten paid days off per year on top of nine public holidays.