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I don’t consider myself an envious person and until recently I never thought I envied anyone. I feel very privileged to live a life that most people are not fortunate to have. At the same time I love to travel but so far in order to be able to do a lot of traveling I’ve had to keep a full time job. Every year I save as much vacation time as possible but it’s just not enough vacation time. The lack of vacation time we North America is what leads me to envy Europeans. When it comes to vacation time nobody beats them.
Time poverty in North America is a real crisis. “I need a vacation” is a familiar phrase in North America and with good reason. Canada and the U.S. are no-vacation-nations. If you live in North America you’ll know that the average vacation time is ten to fifteen days and in order to obtain more you really have to negotiate with your employer. Can you believe that the United States is the only developed country in the world without a single legally required paid vacation day? Europe is very different. Every country in the European Union has at least four weeks of paid vacation. Why is it that we North Americans don’t view vacation as a human right? Is human right not something to envy? Some may argue that it’s because vacation time reduces productivity but I beg to differ. The United States is not doing much better than countries like Germany, or France and these two countries provide their workers with plenty of vacation time. Germany gets 34 days of paid vacation time and France gets 31.
I must admit, Canada’s not doing so well either. We have miserable allowances for paid vacation time among the world’s wealthiest nations. A recent study from the U.S. Center for Economic and Policy Research indicates that Canada is way down the list. Canada is only ahead of two countries when it comes to paid time off. Only Japan and the United States rank lower. How embarrassing! Canada gives its workers a statutory minimum of ten vacation days and has only nine public holidays. If you ask me that’s lousy. Workers in Western Europe and Latin America get far more vacation time than their North American colleagues and to make matters worse, there are even people that feel guilty taking their crummy ten days off.
Europeans got it right. They’ve acknowledged that a healthy and content workforce is a fruitful one. So what can we do to change our situation? Take Back Your Time is an organization that is working on changing this but they need our help so please take some time and visit their website. They have proposed bills in the United States and pressed the case to improve benefits for Canadians, but so far nothing has changed. Why should employers offer more vacation time to employees? The answer is simple: vacation time should be regarded as a basic human right. We have the right to be healthy and happy. We have the right to take back our time and be free.
Do you think North America has a good reason to envy Europe?