A report released in May shows that workers in the 10 new member states of the European Union (EU) had less vacation time in 2004 than their counterparts in the core 15 EU countries, an imbalance that may worry European policy makers and generate remedial directives. Europeans enjoy much more vacation time than Americans, and the figures underscore the gap. They may prompt new scrutiny on the ergonomic price of driving paid leave into oblivion in the United States.
In their annual update on working time developments, the European Industrial Relations Observatory (EIRO) reported that EU10 employees work almost three working weeks more per year than EU15 employees. The update, published on the web site for European Occupational Health and Safety, said Swedish workers took 44 days off work in 2004 – more than double the collectively agreed annual leave and public holidays for workers in Estonia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovenia.
In all 25 EU countries voters punish politicians who try to shrink vacation entitlements. In the United States there is little political pressure to preserve vacation time, and it is dwindling. Even the 22 days Estonians, Lithuanians, Poles and Slovenians count as their own is much more generous than the leave allotted to US workers. In 2001 79 percent of US employees had access to 16.6 days of paid vacation, according to a report by the Families and Work Institute. Their study, “Overwork in America