Work

This country guarantees workers 49 paid days off a year, the most of any nation

Twenty20 / Andy Majewski

A small island county within the Persian Gulf takes the crown when it comes to workplace generosity, offering its roughly 1.4 million residents the most annual paid leave in the world.

In Bahrain, the law states that workers can take up to 49 days off a year without losing any of their salary, thanks to a combination of 30 annual paid vacation days and 19 paid public holidays.

That's the largest amount of paid time off a person anywhere in the world is guaranteed, excluding employer or government-funded breaks for illness or childbirth, according to an analysis of 196 countries' time-off policies by Resume.io, a resume-writing service, using data from the World Policy Analysis Center, the International Labour Organization and Globalization Partners. The analysis did not however factor in how strictly a country adhered to or enforced its own time-off laws, which is where Bahrain runs into some controversy. 

What pushes Bahrain to the top spot is its large number of paid public holidays. Only Azerbaijan and Cambodia give the same or more days.

In terms of paid vacation time, Bahrain has plenty of company: 30 other countries also legally require companies to give employees 30 paid days off a year. These include European nations like France, Spain, Austria and Finland, also known as the happiest country in the world; some of Bahrain's neighbors like the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Kuwait; as well as several other island nations such as Madagascar and the Maldives.

Not anywhere on that list? The United States.

That's because the U.S. is one of 16 countries that doesn't legally guarantee its residents any paid time off and the only economically-advanced nation in the world that does not, according to a report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Other countries that grant workers zero paid days off include: Sri Lanka, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Pakistan, the Philippines, and India.

The absence of government standards means each individual company operating within these countries' borders must set its own vacation-time policy.

Here in the U.S. that results in about a fourth of workers receiving no paid time off for either public holidays or vacations. The most likely to go without: Lower-wage workers, part-time workers and employees of small businesses, according to CEPR.

About three-fourths of private industry workers receive paid vacation time as a benefit, though the number of days varies by tenure and company-size, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Employees who've been with their company for a year get 10 vacation days annually, on average. After five years of service, workers can expect 15 days. Ten years brings 17 vacation days, while 20 years earns you 20 vacation days.

Altogether, the average remains low, when factoring in all private-sector workers, both with and without access to paid leave, amounting to 10 days of paid vacation and six paid holidays per year, according to CEPR.

That's far below the minimum legal standard set in countries with advanced economies similar to the U.S. For instance, in most European counties the legally mandated number of vacations day begins at 20, and the number of paid holidays can reach 13. Australia and New Zealand both require employers to grant at least 20 vacation days per year; Canada and Japan mandate at least 10 paid days off. Most advanced nations also offer at least six paid holidays per year, according to CEPR.

Some of these countries even go a step beyond and mandate that employers pay vacationing workers a small premium above their standard pay in order to help with vacation-related expenses.

"The United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation days and paid holidays," John Schmitt, Vice President of the Economic Policy Institute, wrote in one of CEPR's reports. "Relying on businesses to voluntarily provide paid leave just hasn't worked. It's a national embarrassment that 28 million Americans don't get any paid vacation or paid holidays."

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