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Labor Day: No Picnic for Millions of Workers

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August 29, 2007

Labor Day: No Picnic for Millions of Workers

For Immediate Release: August 29, 2007
Contact: Alan Barber, (202) 293-5380 x115

As much of the country prepares for a long Labor Day weekend, tens of millions of workers can expect to work through the holiday, often without even receiving premium holiday pay as compensation. A recent CEPR report, "No-Vacation Nation", compared legally required paid vacation and paid holidays across 21 rich economies. The main finding was that the United States was the only country that did not require employers to provide some form of paid time off (18 of the countries mandate at least 20 days of paid vacation per year).
The table below demonstrates two problems with the lack of minimum vacation standards in the United States.

TABLE 1

 


 


 


Actual annual paid vacation in United States, selected occupations, 2006

 


 


 


 


 


Years with same employer

 


1 year

10 years

20 years

 


 


 


 


All workers

7

12

14

 


 


 


 


White-collar occupations

8

14

17

Blue-collar occupations

6

11

14

Service occupations

5

9

10

 


 


 


 


Average wage at or above $15

9

15

18

Average wage below $15

5

10

12

 


 


 


 


Notes: Bureau of Labor Statistics (2006, Table 21) analysis of National Compensation Survey; figures adjusted by CEPR using BLS, 2006, Table 1 to reflect share of each type of worker actually receiving paid vacation.

 
 

 


 


 


 


First, as we emphasized in the original report, in the absence of minimum standards vacation time is distributed unequally across the work force. After ten years on the job, for example, workers earning less than $15 per hour get, on average, just 10 days of paid vacation, compared to 15 days per year for workers earning at or above $15 per hour.
A similar pattern holds by broad occupation. White-collar workers have an average of about 14 days of paid vacation per year, compared to only nine days per year for workers in service occupations.

Second, even after very long periods of employment, the average worker in the United States falls short of the minimum vacation standard required in most of the rest of the developed economies. After 20 years with the same employer, a white-collar worker in the United States receives, on average, only about 17 days of paid vacation per year. This average entitlement for relatively high-wage workers with very long job tenure falls below the minimum standard available to essentially all workers in 19 of the 20 foreign economies studied.

The report reviewed the most recently available data from a range of national and international sources on statutory requirements for paid vacations and paid holidays in 21 rich countries (16 European countries, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and the United States).

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