We don’t often post items like this because they tend to be rather dry. But as a brand that advocates for getting out there and pursuing passions, travel or otherwise, we wanted to share the results of this study. Before reading on, ask yourself two questions:
Are you Vacation Deprived? Do you have a good work-life balance?
As a culture, we seem to struggle with taking a vacation, or giving ourselves permission to “take a break.” We hear talk all the time about the four-day work week, the life-work balance, and all sorts of theories for how to live a more fulfilling life, but yet when it comes down to actually doing it, we feel guilty or obligated to one thing or another. There’s always something to do, right?
Today Expedia.com released the results of the 2015 Vacation Deprivation study. The very idea that we are vacation deprived is rather sad to us. But every year, Expedia conducts this global study examining the work/life vacation habits by country and the results are quite fascinating. We’re not sure what to make of it, if anything, but if you’d like to share your thoughts on this, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below, or by tweeting us @VoyageVixens or on our Facebook page.
This is the 15th year Expedia has fielded the study and they discovered that North American workers leave four full days of vacation on the table each year, resulting in just about 500 million unused vacation days a year. It’s hard to believe that people would choose NOT to use their vacation days, but yet it’s something we hear all the time for reasons like “travel is expensive,” “my boss would be mad if I used them,” “I don’t have reliable child care,” etc.
This year’s study compared vacation habits among 9,273 employed adults in more than 25 countries, examining responses to key questions such as:
- How many vacation days do you receive every year?
- How many vacation days do you actually take each year?
- Do vacations make you happy?
- Europe leads the world in paid vacation time, while Americans and Asians lag
- Americans are typically given 15 days off and take 11 (down from 2014)
- South Koreans retained their ranking as the world’s most vacation deprived workers
“We continue to find that Europe’s attitudes towards vacation are overall much different than North American and Asian attitudes,” said John Morrey, Vice President and General Manager of Expedia.com. “For some workers, vacation is a right, and for others, it’s a guilty pleasure. Some workers also fear that their bosses will disapprove. A healthy work-life balance is critical, not only to give workers a chance to enjoy their lives outside of the office, but also to recharge, making you more productive when you get back to work.”
Worldwide, the median number of paid vacation days available to workers is just under 25 days per year, in addition to holidays. Collectively workers take about 20 of them, leaving 20% unused. Europeans are the world’s least-deprived vacationers: workers in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Denmark and Finland are all offered 30 days off. The Germans, French, Spanish and Finnish use nearly all of those days, while the Danish take 28, Italians take 25 and Swedes take 25. Brazilian policies echo Europe’s; Brazilians take nearly all 30 vacation days available to them.
In North America, American workers report leaving four full days of vacation on the table each year, with 15 available and 11 taken. As there are approximately 122 million full-time workers in the US, that amounts to just under 500 million unused vacation days a year. Mexican workers give back three of 15 available days, while Canadians take the full 15 available to them.
Outside of Europe, paid vacations are more of a luxury than a right. South Koreans are the world’s most vacation deprived workers – while they’re offered 15, they take only 6 days off within a given year. Thai workers are given 10 paid vacation days and take them all. The Japanese report that 20 days are available to them, but they take 12, while Malaysians take 10 of 14.
Across APAC, only UAE workers – who are offered and take nearly 30 days a year – enjoy a generous amount of paid vacation. In fact, UAE workers take almost twice as many vacation days as their peers across APAC. The two most comparable APAC workers can be found in Australia, where workers take 18 days off, and New Zealand, where workers take 15.
Not all unused vacation days are lost forever; globally, 19% of workers report a desire to “bank” vacation days to use the following year as a possible reason for not using all of their vacation days. The same percentage of workers cite busy work schedules as a reason they might leave vacation days unused, while 17% cite money concerns. 7% worry that “taking all of my vacation time will be perceived negatively” by their employer. That fear is most prevalent in South Korea (18%) and India *(13%), and is least feared in Finland (1%).
51% of the world’s workers typically take vacations in smaller, more regular chunks – several short vacations and long weekends – versus 32% who take one long holiday. 59% of Americans typically take a mix of smaller vacations, while 26% save up for one long break.
Vacation Deprivation is a State of Mind
Despite earning the title of “most vacation deprived” as measured in vacation days taken, South Koreans do not claim this title for themselves — 57% of South Koreans claim to feel “very or somewhat vacation deprived,” which about matches the global average of 53%.
53% of Americans feel they are “somewhat or very” vacation deprived; understandable, as Americans take about half the number of vacation days as their peers worldwide. UAE workers have the odd distinction of enjoying a generous vacation policy – 30 days offered and taken – while still feeling vacation deprived. 76% of UAE workers feel “very or somewhat” vacation deprived, the most among the 26 countries in this study.
A balanced work-life schedule is important to workers, though not always a reality. Globally, 79% of workers believe there is a “great deal or a fair amount” of correlation between vacations and overall happiness. Indians (95%) agreed with this the most and the Japanese (52%) the least.
15% of workers say worldwide that they would leave their jobs for one that offers more vacation time. However, 69% of workers would still choose “a pay raise” versus “more vacation days.” India was the only country whose residents said they would choose more vacation over more money, with 54% choosing time off and 46% choosing a raise. 71% of Americans would choose a pay raise, versus 29% who would choose more time off.
So while a sizable majority of American workers prioritize pay, they did express a gleeful willingness to make sacrifices for more vacation time. In exchange for just a single extra day of vacation, 49% of Americans would give up beer/wine/liquor for a full week. 47% would avoid social media for a week. 40% of U.S. workers would ditch coffee for that time, 26% would abstain from sex, 19% would give up the Internet entirely and 11% would forego a shower.
Not all workers respect the work/life divide while on holiday — 25% of workers worldwide claim to check their work email and phone messages once per day while on vacation. 34% say they would “never” do so. A full 42% of Hong Kong workers check work email/voicemail daily.
22% of the world’s workers say they feel “somewhat guilty” for taking their vacation time, versus 72% who feel no guilt whatsoever. South Koreans felt the most guilt (67% feel at least “somewhat guilty”), likely because South Korean bosses were deemed to be the most disapproving. Only 24% of South Koreans felt their bosses were supportive of vacation time, versus 59% who were not. 69% of Americans report that their bosses approve of them taking their vacation time, well above the global average of 56%. Norwegian bosses were said to be the most supportive, at 84%.
41% of the world’s workers feel that they should be in a new job for at least six months before deciding to take a vacation. 60% of the Danish deem it acceptable to take a vacation within three months of their start, while 72% of Brazilians report that they would wait a full year.
85% of the world’s workers “somewhat or strongly agree” that they feel happier after a vacation. 92% of Americans agree. The Irish report the highest levels of vacation-fueled happiness, at 95%. 72% of the Irish report feeling more focused at work after a vacation, and 93% feel better rested.
The full Vacation Deprivation list – vacation days offered versus days taken – follows:
Vacation Days Offered
About the Survey
This study was conducted on behalf of Expedia by Northstar, a globally integrated strategic insights consulting firm. This survey was conducted online from October 6 -22, 2015 across North America, Europe, South America and Asia Pacific using the Kantar-owned GMI (Global Market Insite) and Lightspeed Research amalgamated group of panels. The study was conducted among 9,273 employed adults aged 18 years of age and older across 26 countries. Sampling quotas and weighting were used to ensure the sample is representative of each country’s population in terms of age and gender. Assuming a probability sample, the margin of error would be +/-1.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.