Monday, April 09, 2007

Come on America, Give us a Break

I've just returned from A very relaxing break on the shores of Lake Superior in Wisconsin. I however had to take time off unpaid because this country doesn't believe in giving employees paid vacation. My situation is exacerbated by the fact that I am classified as a temp even though I work full time for a large corporation. This status doesn't entitle me to anything, no healthcare, vacation or even sick pay.

Compared to the rest of the industrialised world, the USA is one of the only countries that doesn't mandate ANY paid vacation for workers. In Europe, the average paid vacation is for employees is four weeks, with some European countries giving much more. It can take an American worker many many years of service to achieve this. Most Americans may be given one week of vacation after a year of service, and this is seen as generous. In This Article, you can see that after 25 years of service, the average American will have accrued slightly less vacation time than a European with the minimum mandated vacation time allowed.

In his book Work to Live: The Guide to Getting a Life, Joe Robinson debunks the myth that America has a higher productivity than that of Europe:

“Evidence shows that time off is not the enemy of productivity; to the contrary, it’s the engine,” according to Robinson. “Contrary to the American myth, a number of European countries have caught up with the United States in productivity.”

In fact, as this article states, according to US federal reserve figures. Europe had a higher productivity in 14 of the 19 years between 1981 and 2000.

Surely this lack of vacation time available to Americans will have knock on effects on the health and family lives of American people. For an administration that states that it is in favour of family values to not allow it's citizens to spend time with their families seems like a contradiction to me. It seems to me that stress levels here are much higher than they were back home in the UK. I have never known so many people who are on medication to control stress and depression. This seems to be the alternative to letting people have time for rest and recuperation - just medicate the hell out of people. Although, even this terrible solution may not be available to those who are unable to afford healthcare, but that is another story altogether.

So, why does America insist on this policy of not regulating vacation time. Partly it is due to the stranglehold that big business has over the government of this nation. It is also due to apathy of the very people who have the power to make the change - the workers themselves; This article states that a 2004 poll found that 59 percent of those polled were happy with the amount of vacation they receive, you have to wonder whether that 59 percent were the ones who actually receive the reasonable vacation in the first place. There is no protection for those in lower paying jobs who receive little or no vacation or sick days. It is appalling that somebody who has an illness would have to weigh up whether they can afford to stay home.


Shak said...

I've got lots of holiday at the moment: i'm unemployed. White Lightning, here i come!

Sir Jorge said...

I need a vacation. The company I work for does not give me anything of the sort. It sure does seem odd.

Goose said...

As a bit of an aside...there seems to be some fishy things going on with the US health surprise to the yanks I should imagine, check this out:

Shawn C. said...

I have just moved to Canada where the minimum amount of time that you get is 2 weeks in your first year of service, not the one week like we had in the US after a year of service. Many companies here offer a 3rd week after two years and a 4th week after three years. In the US you are lucky to get two weeks after two years. It was one of the things that frustrated me the most about my work.

arnold said...

These are facts people need to know about the injustices americans submit each other to, they can afford better care for the workers.