Vacations II

May 16, 2007
Posted by Jay Livingston

I was a couple of days too early with the previous post about vacations. The graph I used was from a report that’s several years old. But today, the Center for Economic and Policy Research published a new study by Rebecca Ray and John Schmitt on the topic: “No-Vacation Nation.”

Here are some excerpts from the first paragraphs:

The United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation. European countries establish legal rights to at least 20 days of paid vacation per year, with legal requirement of 25 and even 30 or more days in some countries.

In the absence of government standards, almost one in four Americans have no paid vacation and no paid holidays. . . .The average worker in the private sector in the United States receives only about nine days of paid vacation and about six paid holidays per year.

Lower-wage workers are less likely to have any paid vacation (69 percent) than higher-wage workers are (88 percent).

US exceptionalism and our ignorance of the rest of the world have consequences. I wonder what would happen if Americans knew that workers in other countries are entitled by law to several weeks paid vacation. Americans are finally beginning to realize that people in other advanced countries do not live in fear of financial ruin because of illness, and politicians are finally beginning to talk about“single-payer” health plans. The single payer is, of course, the government, and these are the plans that used to be vilified as “socialized medicine.”

In a similar way, defenders of no-vacation nation argue against the government requiring employers to give even a few days of paid vacation. On “Marketplace,” the Public Radio business show, a “economics consultant” said, “I don't think it’s proper for the government to impose a one-size-fits-all policy on employers and workers.”

His statement has a familiar ring to it. Economic consultants say similar things about laws regarding minimum wage and workplace safety, and in the 19th century they probably made the same arguments against child labor laws.

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