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Europeans want more holidays” – even though they work less than the US and Japan

Europeans want more holidays” – even though they work less than the US and Japan

With generous vacation policies and a culture that highly values ​​work-life balance, Europe is a dreamland for many when it comes to vacations.

However, Europeans may have a different opinion. According to a new report from Expedia, while they have more vacation days than some of their peers, they believe they are not getting enough.

The Germans and French are among the most generous annual leave periods at 31 and 33 days respectively. In both cases, that’s more than a month, more than two and a half times the number of vacation days workers get in the United States. However, a survey of more than 11,500 workers worldwide found that employees in Germany and France say they don’t get enough vacation time.

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In contrast, their North American and Japanese counterparts took significantly fewer days off work and were more satisfied with it. While 65% of North American workers and 53% of Japanese workers feel they have missed a vacation, this figure rises to 84% among Germans and 69% among French workers.

More time off will certainly not solve the wider problem of work-life balance, as some European workers want more. But what explains this difference?

What explains the “holiday loss” that Germans and French feel? | Thomas Barwick (Credit: Getty Images/ via The New York Times)

People’s attitudes toward holidays and the role they play in each country’s culture determine why they miss their downtime.

OECD data indicates that employees work the most hours in the United States. In 2022, the average worker worked 1,811 hours a year, compared to 1,341 hours and 1,511 hours in Germany and France, respectively.

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Call it what you will, whether it’s ambitious — or lacking, as Nicolai Tangen, CEO of Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, said in April, this is what differentiates Labour’s approach.

“Especially in the United States, there is a norm of being a ‘top worker,’ and we feel pressure to be dedicated to our work,” Dr. Mindy Shoss, a professor of psychology at the University of Central Florida, told Expedia. As the 24th iteration of the travel agency’s “Vacation Loss” report revealed, Americans say they don’t take enough time off because “life is too busy to plan or take a vacation.”

In France, on the other hand, a vacation is seen as a “fundamental right,” Expedia’s head of public relations Christy Hudson told Fortune last month. They are also seen as an essential aspect of overall well-being, something that is not equally valued in America.

“The clear French emphasis on the fundamental right to leisure must be adopted everywhere,” the Expedia statement said.

what will happen?

France is known as one of the least-worked countries, with many people taking frequent vacations and working fewer hours.

However, studies have concluded that, in general, European culture is more accommodating of work-life balance than American culture. Countries like the UK have a statutory requirement to give workers 28 days off.

The approach is simple for Europeans: According to the Financial Times, once people reach subsistence level, they prefer free time to wealth creation, unlike their American counterparts, who prioritize the opposite.

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Even when Americans decide to take vacations, rest and relaxation are often not prioritized, making it difficult for people to truly disconnect. This explains the desire to have more free time.

Extending our analysis further, countries such as Hong Kong and Japan offer unique lessons on how workers can make better use of their leisure time.

In Hong Kong, workers regularly schedule their time off, often on public holidays, to maximize their vacation time. So, on an average, they don’t have days left, and the same is happening in Singapore.

In Japan, workers get 19 vacation days a year, and seven go unused, according to Expedia. However, Japanese workers feel that vacations are few and far between. What’s the trick? Take short but frequent breaks from work to make the most of your free time.

“In Japan, people take a vacation every month instead of twice a year. For the French, even a whole month doesn’t seem like enough,” says Melanie Fish, Head of Public Relations for Expedia Brands.

“It’s clear that a lot of people in America could learn from this, whether it’s expanding their paid hours throughout the year or prioritizing rest on their next vacation.”

HBR: ©.2024 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp./Distributed by The New York Times Licensing Group