Fewer Americans Get Paid Vacation Days Than 20 Years Ago

While more than 80 percent of American workers got paid vacation days two decades ago, just 77 percent do today, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The workers who saw the biggest declines are those who work part-time and for companies with fewer than 100 employees, as this chart from the New York Times’s Catherine Rampell shows:

Those who do get paid vacation time from their employer now get more of it, with the average worker getting about two more days now than 20 years ago, for an average of 15. But they also get fewer paid holidays, dropping from 10 then to eight now, offsetting that increase.

The United States is practically the only advanced country that doesn’t guarantee all workers paid vacation time. All European Union countries require employers to offer at least 20 days off per year, while many go above that requirement. France, at the highest end, mandates 30 days. Five countries have even gone so far as to require that employers give their workers an added bonus on top of their regular pay to cover vacation expenses.


The BLS data also shows that the average American worker gets fewer paid sick days today than in 1993, with the numbers decreasing more the longer an employee stays with his company. And 40 percent of private sector workers don’t have access to any paid time off for illnesses, including 80 percent of low-income workers.

The United States is also lonely when it comes to a lack of guaranteed paid sick time. It is the only country out of the top 15 most competitive ones that doesn’t have such a law. Some cities and states have mandated that employers give their workers paid sick time: New York City; Portland, OR; San Francisco, CA; Seattle, WA; Washington, DC; and Connecticut. A push for a similar law just began in Massachusetts and New Jersey, while the mayor of Jersey City will introduce a bill next week.