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Need a paid vacation? Then America's not the place for you

May 28, 2013|By Paul Whitefield
  • Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park draws thousands of tourists every year.
Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park draws thousands of tourists…

Just back from a nice long Memorial Day weekend, which, of course, put me in the mood for, you guessed it -- a vacation.

Then I read this story: “U.S. is only 'advanced economy' that does not require paid vacation.”

Figures.

So I immediately clicked on the story. It has a nice chart. I like visuals.

The chart made it easy to see just which of those socialist-loving European countries were giving their workers so many days off -- which is why, of course (pardon me while I channel the “tea party”) they are going to hell in a handbasket. And sure enough, those lazy French are right up there, with 30 paid days off plus one paid holiday (Bastille Day? Napoleon’s birthday? Renoir’s birthday?). Who also ranks high? Of course Spain and Portugal (22/13 and 22/12, respectively); and the Italians (20/11), naturally.  

But wait a minute. What the heck -- Germany’s at 24/10? And basket-case Greece a comparatively moderate 20/6? Even notoriously hardworking Japan comes in at 10 paid days off.

And there, all by its lonesome, the United States: Zero. Nada. Zip.

Sigh. I guess it's true: No rest for the wicked.

Now, Americans have the bad habit of proclaiming the United States “the greatest country in the world,” as if everything about it is “the greatest.” And I have to admit, I bought into it too, until I went on a few trips abroad (full disclosure: Yes, I get paid vacation time).

And you know what? France’s trains are way better than ours. And the roads there are pretty nice. And Paris’ and London’s subway systems put L.A.’s to shame -- like how you can take them from the airport to the city, for example. What a concept.

My point, though, isn’t to bash the good ol' U.S. of A. I like it here. I like it in California too. (My better half often expresses her belief that I like it a little too much here, in fact. So it’s my fault that California is paradise on Earth? Don’t think so? You try living through a summer and a winter in the Texas Panhandle.)

But do we really have to be so Scrooge-like when it comes to vacations? Heck, as the story notes: "The report also tallied the average number of paid vacation and holidays provided to American workers in the private sector. The total -- 16 -- would not meet the minimum required by law in 19 countries.

On Monday, President Obama and his GOP best buddy, Gov. Chris Christie, toured areas of New Jersey battered by Superstorm Sandy. The president declared: “The Jersey Shore is back, and it’s open for business.” 

Great. Now how about you two trying a little harder to make sure that Americans can get the time off to come visit?

I don't know, maybe it’s John Calvin’s fault. The Puritan work ethic and all that.

But there’s hope. As the story says, Florida Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson is sponsoring a bill that “would require employers to provide one week of paid vacation annually.”  

Seems like a sensible move. Might even use the time to visit the Jersey Shore.

With global warming and all, who knows how much longer it'll be there anyway.

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