March 16th, 2012
05:29 AM GMT
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(CNN) – Earlier this week, voters in Switzerland went to the polls and said "no" to an additional two weeks vacation a year.

In a national referendum, 66.5% opposed the chance to put Switzerland in line with its neighbor Germany, where employees enjoy six-week paid vacation every year.

The Swiss apparently considered previous warnings of the government and business representatives who claimed that an additional fortnight of paid holidays increase labor costs and put their economy at risk.

“In rejecting the initiative, citizens have kept a sense of reality,” says Hans-Ulrich Bigler, director of the Swiss Union of Arts and Crafts, which represents about 300,000 businesses, in a statement. The two weeks could have cost the economy 6 billion Swiss francs ($6.53 billion) a year, he says.

Federal Councilor Jean-Francois Rime told the Telegraph that “the Swiss are reasonable enough” in saying no.

But Travail Suisse disagreed. The Swiss trade union launched the “6 weeks vacation for all” campaign after it found that a third of Swiss employees suffers from stress at work and blamed the “no” faction of using scare tactics amid the eurozone crisis.

Travail Suisse argues that, according to an estimate of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs Seco, health problems as a result of the work load will cost the country 10 billion francs ($10.8 billion) per year.

The Swiss vote touches a topic that has long triggered debate: Does total vacation time enhance or hurt a country’s economic performance?

According to Bloomberg, countries with long vacations are not necessarily lacking strong economic performance. In a 2009 survey it revealed that although the U.S. was the world’s most competitive country, if you factor the GDP per hours worked each year some countries with higher vacation levels outperformed the U.S.

Based on data from the Organization of Economic Co-Operation and Development, Belgium and the Netherlands, with 30 and 28 vacation days per year, respectively, were 2% more productive in 2009 than the US. Luxemburg was 27% more efficient while mandating 32 days vacation per year.

Europe’s leading economies France and Germany were only 2% and 7%, respectively, behind the U.S. in terms of GDP per hours worked.

A study by the American Economic Journal, examined whether the elimination of a summer break influences student achievements. The results show that year-round schooling does not improve students’ academic success.

In a vacation study between September 19 and October 9, 2011, by the online travel company Expedia, 7,083 respondents across 20 countries were asked how many vacation days per year they receive and how many of them they actually use.

Expedia vacation survey

Days given Days taken Days unused
France 30 30 0
Spain 30 30 0
Denmark 30 30 0
Brazil 30 30 0
Germany 30 28 2
Italy 28 21 7
UK 25 25 0
Sweden 25 25 0
Netherlands 25 23 2
Norway 25 21 4
India 25 20 5
Ireland 21 20 1
Argentina 21 20 1
Australia 20 15 5
Canada 16 15 1
Mexico 15 14 1
Singapore 14 14 0
U.S. 14 12 2
Japan 11 5 6
South Korea 10 7 3
Total 24 20 4

Germany, France, Spain and Denmark top the list with 30 paid vacation days, while the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and the UK come in second with 25 days. European respondents also turn most of it into holidays. German respondents said they use 28 of 30 days, while France, Spain, Sweden and Denmark use all of them. American respondents earn 14 days, from which they use 12.

Asia, however, is more vacation averse. According to the survey, Japan is the most vacation-deprived nation in the world, with respondents saying they receive 11 paid days each year but only use five of them. South Koreans take seven out of their 10 days.

Hard working employees can also be found in India, where five days from a total of 20 are not used, respondents said. “In India, vacations tend to be viewed as a guilty habit,” marketing head of Expedia India, Manmeet Ahluwalia, said in a press release. “As many as 54% Indians spend vacations usually secretly checking emails.”  

Besides economic performance, vacation levels might have an impact on the employees’ temper. Top scorers in the recent Legatum Institute’s list of the world’s happiest countries have many things in common.

One of them, however, is a high number of vacation days.

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Filed under: Business

soundoff (68 Responses)
  1. mark

    What about New Zealand and why the hell isnt New Zealand include din this?? were a 1st world country yet you left us out, shame on you

    March 16, 2012 at 7:03 am |
  2. James

    newzealand is a petty island with 3 million so they don't count U keep thinking ur 1st world just cuz ur white. Its too bad the US gets 14 days on average, But with current economy people just can't afford to go on vacations anyway so they skip.

    March 16, 2012 at 7:09 am |
  3. John

    I'm a Nwe Zealander,, I'm not surprised that they leave us out if our spelling and grammer is like that of Mark who posted the first comment!.... I get heaps of holidays something like 7 weeks (but I am a shift worker).....

    March 16, 2012 at 7:26 am |
  4. Jeff

    John, you should proofread all comments in which you insult another user's spelling or grammar. Wouldn't you agree?

    March 16, 2012 at 7:52 am |
  5. Luke

    South Korea, -sounds like a slavery state!

    March 16, 2012 at 7:57 am |
  6. Jeff

    John, in addition to the more obvious mistake you made in the spelling of your nationality, note the spelling of "grammar".

    March 16, 2012 at 8:10 am |
  7. Lou

    Better than workers' paradise North Korea – food and vacation for party elite, gulags for dissenters.

    March 16, 2012 at 8:15 am |
  8. n3kit

    First world countries get the most vacation, who cares, the wealth of these first world countries will never satisfy them, they work for more money, bigger houses, faster cars, likewise their vacation will never give them rest, just more reason to work harder. More like an open grave that is never filled up, of course first world countries get the most vacation.

    March 16, 2012 at 8:15 am |
  9. Floyd Burgoz

    Don't be fooled by Germany and 6 weeks Vacation. These figures only represent folks with full time jobs and not daily Euro Jobs. I know, my wife is German! Germany has done a good job at faking the funk of it's underemployed but it will catch them and the world by the nose soon.

    March 16, 2012 at 8:24 am |
  10. Floyd Burgoz

    Vacation is constant in Italy, especially when most people ages 21 to 51 stay at home with Mama because of unemployment or because the job they have makes it financially prohibitive from maintaining a residence on there own.

    March 16, 2012 at 8:28 am |
  11. Dave

    OK, without commenting on the rest of the article, its conclusions, or anything-

    You can't use a self-reported Expedia survey as data! You have no way to control the self-reporting bias, and you have no way to determine if your samples for each country are large enough to be representative. To say nothing about self-selection bias!

    The facts and conclusions in this article may well be true, but better supporting evidence is needed.

    March 16, 2012 at 8:55 am |
  12. Nina Brown

    NIce list

    March 16, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  13. Anand

    Vacation!! well in India i get 22 days earned leave, 7 day casual leave which lapses every year, 7 days sick leave.
    But have taken none so far.....really need a vacation...away from this computer and blackberry, the bane of modern society

    March 16, 2012 at 9:45 am |
  14. Jaal

    I live and work in Spain and I must say I love my 30 days of holidays per year – I find it to be a great motivator. Curiously we are also the country that works most hours per year in Europe and the 4th in the world.

    I think that renders this chart sligthly misleading.

    March 16, 2012 at 10:03 am |
  15. Marco

    Unfortunately, I see that the researchers, in some cases, did not include National Holidays in their data. I live in Germany and yes, the workers do get 30 days paid vacation. However, they also have 10 National Holidays that, for the most part, they take off but albeit, are unpaid days off.

    March 16, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  16. Spaceman

    Seriously do u expect us to believe the Italians forfeit 7 days each

    March 16, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  17. Kyle H. Davis

    I think one of the reasons for Asia being so low on the list is because of the countless cultural festivals that they are given time off for. I know, I know, a holiday is not the same as a vacation (but then again, that is a matter of perspective). We often take our vacation time and append it to a holiday to make our vacation longer (taking a week off at Christmas, when we are only given 1 or 2 days off). They do the same thing, but their holidays are a week, while their vacation time is one or two days.

    March 16, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  18. Raffael

    What about Maldives?? Maldives is the world best destination..!

    March 16, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  19. Matt

    A psychological study a while back offered people 2 choices in each of scenarios:
    1) You earn $100k per year and your friends / peer group earn $85k per year
    2) You earn $120k per year and your friends / peer group earn $135k per year
    3) You have 18 days vacation per year and your friends / peer group have 15 days
    4) You have 20 days vacation per year and your friend / peer group have 22 days
    People overwhelmingly chose 1 and 4. People measure earnings in relative terms and time/leisure in absolute terms.
    This partly explains certain phenomena:
    a) that reported happiness rises with wealth only up to a given level and that once this level is reached, getting richer only has a very weak impact on happiness. If everyone is trying to get richer, nobody's relative position changes so nobody gets any happier despite having more money.
    b) High rates of taxation do no necessarily have much of an impact on economic output or efficiency, provided they are progressive in nature and a sufficient net after tax differential between earnings remains.
    Culturally, a lot of the US seems sadly locked in a 'Work, Consume, Die' mentality.

    March 16, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  20. pete

    Where would Chna appear on the list? Hardly seems the world's most populous country should be left out of a well researched article.

    March 16, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  21. Shahan

    Happy vecation – Take your own when you can.

    March 16, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  22. Neo

    Im glad to be no american or asian, waste my life by working..

    March 16, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  23. Francis

    While I greatly appreciate that we get a lot of PAID vacation days compared to other countries, the writer of this article needs to recheck facts re: The Netherlands. On record the standard is 21 days holiday leave. The employer/employee can offer/bargain for more based on various criteria such as age, position, work hours, benefits...

    March 16, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  24. Aloha33

    Poor Americans, They work all this extra hours just so their superrich can afford even more escorts and cocain. and they are even proud of being exploited like this. strange, strange peolpe.

    March 16, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  25. David

    Until last year I was given seven weeks a year vacation, but that has been negotiated down to six. Also, about a quarter of my co workers work one month on, one month off on tours so they effectively have six months off at home. The generous vacation packages are a legacy of colonial era civil servant working conditions for expatriate Australian administrators (Papua New Guinea).

    March 16, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  26. panobuz

    I don't know where they get their numbers from for the US. I get 4 weeks vacation (20 days) and 11 holidays. Total 31 days off paid. Most of the people get pretty much the same. If you are new at a company you get less, but it increases the longer you are with the company.

    March 16, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  27. Diligent

    Bad research – some of these countries (e.g. Brazil) count 30 consecutive calendar days instead of business days, such as the US. 30 calendar days get reduced to 22 business days.

    March 16, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  28. hemant

    and what about Australia..?

    March 16, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  29. JenBE

    The figures for Belgium are incorrect. I live and work here, and I can attest that while some workers might get more time based on seniority, the mandated number of vacation days per year is 20, not 30.

    March 16, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  30. Lolo

    This is wrong, Brazil has 30 straight days, but only 20 as paid leave, 30 only if counting weekends as well...

    March 16, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  31. Nathan

    Kiwis are the worst native English speakers when it comes to spelling and grammar.

    March 16, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  32. Mariano

    There is a mistake. Argentina: 15 days, not 21.

    March 16, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  33. Mariano

    There is a mistake. Argentina: 15 days, not 21..

    March 16, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  34. The6thsense

    I think workers should get a 2 weeks paid vacation and another 2 weeks unpaid vacation.

    March 16, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
  35. dr A Kruger

    The whole concept of "paid leave" is an insult to an employee. It simply means that the lawmakers reckon employees are too dumb to manage their own money. So their employers have to hold back some of what they earn to give to them for special use: Medical expenses, Pension and.. yes, holiday.

    March 16, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  36. Afghan

    I think the researcher should also visit Afghanistan where there is 365 days holidays.

    March 16, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
  37. Testmo

    Yes, here in America you may get something like four weeks of paid vacation but consider yourself lucky. You have to admit the standard is two weeks. Even in large energy companies (doing very well in this economy) I have to have a total of seven years working before I get three weeks (15 days paid leave) and they now have a limit on sick days

    March 17, 2012 at 5:40 am |
  38. George

    What no Greece? Oh so all the rubbish CNN have been sprouting about the Greek people not working and always on 'holidays' is now proven to be a lie.

    March 17, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  39. AKS

    Interesting China is not on the list. That's why they are the hardest working people and currently bailing out all the broken economies.

    March 17, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  40. HSGisela

    Who did the research on this...not accurate at all !! In Germany you get 24 days by law. If you work a job that has a six day work week, such as in the retail business that amounts to 4 weeks, with a five work week you get 4 weeks and 4 days. Anything above that is per work contract with your employer or based on a union tariff contract and not nearly every job falls under that criteria. Inacccurate reporting like this is almost as bad as the humbug Rick Santorum is spreading about euthansia in the Netherlands! Journalists do your homework, please!

    March 17, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  41. Michelle the article. I live in the Netherlands and I get 38 days per year. My company considers 38 hours/week full time but you work 40 so that adds 12 extra days per year and my companies provides 26 days for full timers. I actually only take about 3-5 days with me per year. I am eager to take time off even if it means unwinding only in my home and not vacation destination. The only problem with NL is they don't have very many public holidays and if the holiday falls on the weekend they don't give you the friday or monday off as a consequence. In the US you may not have alot of vacation time but you have public holidays almost every month.

    March 17, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
  42. Pavlina Jansen


    March 18, 2012 at 6:58 am |
  43. Henk

    I`m filthy rich and i have 365 days of vacation per year. My life is boring as hell.

    March 18, 2012 at 7:59 am |
  44. KPat

    This table is misleading because it mixes natural and working days. It's true that Spain gets 30 days, but those are natural days. By contrast, if Germans say they get six weeks, that means the 30 days they posted are working days. In Spain we have a month. I'd love to see an updated chart that compares apples with apples in this case.

    March 18, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  45. Leo

    Just to elaborate on KPat comment, most of Job Contracts in Spain include 22 working days a year. Then depending of Job seniority with the same employer you get extra vacation days but never beyond 30 working days a year as total. Again I agreed with some of the comments that refer the figures shown by Expedia Vacation survey as misleading.

    March 18, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  46. matt

    there is absolutely nothing wrong with Vacation -i dont think ANYONE in the world gets enough compared to how much people worldwide give up to the big machine.

    March 18, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  47. xuan

    how about vietnam? this is a beautiful country.

    March 18, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
  48. Isabelle

    Your data is incorrect. there is a difference between the legal minimum (for example 5 weeks in France and not 6 so 25 days and not 30), and what has been negotiated in certain collective bargaining agreements (for example there is no law in germany on the 6 weeks and not all compaines apply it but it is an obligation in ceratin industries) and the practice.

    March 18, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
  49. Anton

    This list does not consider special holidays like Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, etc. In the Netherlands, the number of those days is very limited compared to the rest of Europe. Especially (partly) catholic countries have a relative large number of those days; Germany then has even more holidays. If those holidays are on weekends, in the UK these are moved forward to the next Monday as 'bank holiday's. No such thing in the Netherlands. For the last 2 years, Christmas and New Year were in weekends and we only had a few special holidays.

    March 19, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  50. roberto

    I wonder where US economy would be if we had 30 days vacation?

    March 19, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  51. JohnD

    Same as it is now, down the toilet!!

    March 20, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  52. JohnC

    In the U.S. there is a lot of variability depending on your employer and your longevity. I worked for an engineering company and started with 15 days/year, and it gradually increased up to 25 or 30 days/year (I can't remember exactly) over about 15 years' time. Now, I'm self employed so I take days off when it makes sense. I probably average about 6-7 weeks per year. They aren't paid, but then again I make a lot more than when I worked for a corporation.

    March 20, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
  53. bob

    LOL..India beating Ireland and Aussies..gr8 going

    March 21, 2012 at 5:11 am |
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  58. Chris

    The question is when people goes on six weeks paid holiday who will do their jobs? This is the issue, there are not enough Swiss people to cover Swiss socalled jobs. The Swiss do not employ immigrants unless it is to clean the toilets etc. They are not prepared to properly accept immigrants in to the labour market as this may help immigrants to integrate and next 'they will bring their whole family' into 'precious' Switzerland and deprive the Swiss. This is the view of the Swiss people and the reason the six weeks holidays were rejected. Do you know that even after living lawfully in Switzerland for nine years an immigrant cannot join the police or work for the State and local government in any meaningful capacity. Yes immigrants will be tolorated to clean the toilets but nothing more. In Switzerland, it is not about getting the best persons for the job, it is about getting a White Swiss employed and all the international companies that conducts business here complies with the Swiss ways even it is in breach of both domestice and international Laws.

    July 22, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
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  66. Bobbi

    I have to agree with Testmo above. US standard is two weeks. The older people who are saying that they get 4-5 weeks– this isn't usually available for younger people as they age anymore. I have 12 days of vacation a year; and a lot of my holidays are mandatory but taken out of this vacation time (Christmas Day, for example). At 10 years of working, I would get 15 days of vacation, and max out at 20 days.

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