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Vive les vacances! The French rank high in days off from work

November 21, 2012|By Kim Willsher

PARIS – Crisis? What crisis?

Workers in France are leaders in taking vacation days, a new poll shows. And apparently no credit-rating downgrade or thundercloud of economic gloom is going to stop them.

The French use an average of 30 vacation days every year, making them joint world leaders with Brazilians, according to the study released this week by polling firm Harris Interactive. That compares with an average of 26 days of official rest and relaxation by other workers in Europe and an average of just 15 worldwide.

Moreover, despite increasingly dire warnings about the state of France's economy, workers here have no intention of slacking off on their slacking off. In the poll, 72% said they planned at least as many vacations in the next 12 months as in the last year; 10% of those said they intended to get away even more.

And those French who said they would take fewer days off – about 11% (lower than the 14% world average) – are not doing so for financial reasons. They're looking to accumulate time off to use for longer vacations.

Isabelle Pinson, managing director of the online travel agency Expedia, which commissioned the survey, said the French considered their vacations a right rather than a perk.

"They are sacrosanct. In other countries, people may have 20 days vacation and only take 15. In France, people take all the days they are due," she said.

"They don't always go away and might stay at home with the children or do the shopping but they take the days off," Pinson said. "In French culture, people work so they can take vacations and are less defined by their work than in some Anglo-Saxon countries."

She said the surprise in the poll results was that, even in an economic crisis, the French were not prepared to sacrifice their breaks.

"They may not go far, they may spend less, but they are not giving up taking the time off," Pinson said.

But are they really getting away from it all? Harris found that more than half (53%) of French holidaymakers regularly consult emails and work-related messages during their vacations, a higher percentage than anywhere else in the world. Only 13% never look at emails while on vacation.

The findings confirm a report last week by the French government economic and statistical research agency INSEE, which found that, in 2010, salaried workers took 6.2 weeks of paid vacation on average. Some of these days were due to hours put in above the official 35-hour work week.

INSEE reported that executives took an average of about seven weeks of vacation. And some government civil servants took up to eight weeks off.

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