Paid Vacation’s Decline

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Americans working in the private sector are less likely to have paid vacation days than was the case 20 years ago, according to a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In 1992-93, 82 percent of American workers reported receiving paid vacation days. Today the share is down to 77 percent. The biggest declines occurred for people working part time and for people working at establishments with fewer than 100 employees.

For most other kinds of paid leave, though, employees' access has increased.

For example, while the United States still remains one of just a handful of countries worldwide that don't require paid maternity leave, the share of American private sector workers who do have access to paid family leave has risen. It is still very rarely offered, though.

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As of 2012, 11 percent of private sector workers said they had paid family leave (which includes leave to care for family members). In 1992-93, when the survey question was worded more narrowly, 2 percent of workers said they received paid maternity benefits and 1 percent paid paternity benefits.

Sick leave has also become more common, although it is also still not universal. As of last year, 61 percent of private sector employees had access to paid sick leave, compared with 50 percent two decades ago.

Vacation time, while less common among private sector workers over all, appears to have become somewhat more generous for those full-timers who do have access to it. The average private sector, full-time worker got eight days of vacation after a year of service in 1992-93, versus 10 days for his counterpart in 2012.

Ten days is better than eight, but still pales in comparison to what employees in other developed countries enjoy, by law. According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a liberal research organization, the typical developed country mandates at least 20 paid vacation days.

—By the New York Times' Catherine Rampell