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Top 30 Countries for Paid Leave & Holidays

Out of office – vacation at sea

Sometimes you can’t wait to get off the laptop and just head to the beach. When it comes to paid leave, however, some countries just have it better than others. I was interested in looking at which countries have the highest amount of paid leave, and which are not so lucky.

Only major countries were used for this comparison. Though there was some conflicting information, I mostly used data from the Center for Economic and Policy Research and the International Labour Organization. The numbers below represent the total number of paid leave days (followed by the breakdown of paid vacation days, and paid public holidays, in parentheses like this).

Keep a few things in mind when reading through this information: These numbers are only the minimum, and many companies give bonuses in the form of paid holidays for seniority. Furthermore, most of the companies actually have different numbers depending on what area of the country you are in. Therefore, you should take these numbers with a grain of salt – they don’t apply to everyone. What I tried to do is rank the bare minimum.

  1. Austria – 38 (25 paid vacation days, 13 paid public holidays)
  2. Sweden – 36 (25, 11)
  3. Iceland – 36 (24, 12)
  4. Brazil – 35 (22, 13)
  5. Denmark – 34 (25, 9)
  6. Finland – 34 (25, 9)
  7. Spain – 34 (22, 12)
  8. Egypt – 34 (21, 13)
  9. Poland – 33 (20, 13)
  10. Italy – 32 (20, 12)
  11. Russia – 32 (20, 12)
  12. France – 31 (30, 1, plus 10 more non-paid public holidays)
  13. Portugal – 31 (22, 9)
  14. New Zealand – 31 (20, 11)
  15. Belgium – 30 (20, 10)
  16. Australia – 30 (20, 10)
  17. Germany – 29 (20, 9)
  18. Ireland – 29 (20, 9)
  19. United Kingdom – 28 (20, 8 plus 1 more in Scotland)
  20. Norway – 27 (25, 2)
  21. Netherlands – 27 (20, 7)
  22. India – 27 (12, 15)
  23. Turkey – 26.5 (12, 14.5)
  24. Greece – 26 (20, 6)
  25. Switzerland – 20+ (20, unsure…)
  26. Canada – 19 (10, 9)
  27. Israel – 19 (10, 9)
  28. Singapore – 18 (11, 7)
  29. China – 16 (11, 5)
  30. Japan – 10+ (10, unsure…)

You probably noticed that the US is nowhere on these lists. The US is the only industrialized nation with no such minimum paid leave.

What you won’t notice is the confusing number of Japan. In reality, there are probably around 8-12 public holidays, which would certainly raise its ranking (this is surely the case with Switzerland as well). However, the real confusion is the fact that Japanese people are famously not using their paid leave afforded to them by their employers. Why?

Sadly, the Japanese work culture makes taking paid vacation very difficult, especially in the private sector. In many (if not most?) cases, if an employee took all of their paid vacation days – completely within their rights, afforded by the employers – it would essentially be grounds for dismissal. This is not something you will ever see written down, because it is entirely unofficial. However, Japanese workers know that taking all your allowed days off would indicate a lack of commitment.

So the number of Japan should be much higher, but it still doesn’t mean that these paid leave days are actually (able to be) utilized. Therefore, you can imagine how many of these numbers are misleading, based on cultural circumstances, company differences, and variation among regions within each country.

All in all, it seems clear that European nations, especially Scandinavian and Western European countries, have the most paid holidays.

I wonder how much a flight to Austria costs?…


[December 8 Update: I found a graphic from Yougov that looks at a point I raised regarding Japan – not just having the option of taking paid leave, but actually taking it. Of the countries investigated, it shows that the UK take the most paid leave days, followed closely by Denmark and Germany. The most common reason for not taking all of an employee’s paid leave was that they want to stock up for an extra-long holiday the following year (26%). The next two are that the employee just never really got around to it (22%) and there wasn’t a good enough reason to take one (17%). Only 6% said they did not take holidays because they didn’t want to miss the enjoyment of doing their work.]

Who takes paid leave Infographic

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