Could More Vacation Time Improve Your Productivity? [30 Countries Compared]

Japan, known for its workaholic culture made headlines when its government was reported to be considering passing a law which force its workers to take leave. There are many reasons that contribute to such a drastic decision including the thought that this move could help to revive Japan’s economic growth after years of stagnation.

But is it really that simple? Do more leave days equate to increased productivity?

While there are many articles written on the Internet (including one of our very own) that say YES, fewer work days lead to higher productivity, the data is incomplete or usually uses only one country as a focal point. We thought we’d give the data a second look, and going much bigger with this.

So Here’s What We Did

You may have come across reports that mention Switzerland as the most productive country, based on a Global Competitiveness Report. We’ve looked into the methodology and found that they fall back on the Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) as “an appropriate estimate of the level of productivity and competitiveness of an economy.”

Technically, the higher up a country is ranked on this report, the higher the productivity of the country.

So we pulled the top 30 most competitive countries as ranked by the Global Competitiveness Report 2014/2015 and found the four following sets of data for comparison:

  • average working hours per week
  • minimum annual leave mandated by law
  • days of parental leave allocated for each country
  • parental leave mandated by law

Note: The data here is correct as pulled from their sources on Feb, 2015. Our sources are available at the bottom of the table.

Working Hours And Leave By Countries

Country Working hrs per Week Minimum Mandated Annual Leave (days) Paid Public Holidays Paid Vacation Days Parental leave
(1) Switzerland 30 hrs* 20 days N/A 20 days 14 weeks
(2) Singapore 40 hrs 8-14 days 11 days 7 days 16 weeks
(3) United States 34 hrs* 0 days; 6-20 days (doe) 0 days 0 days 0 days
(4) Finland 32 hrs* 30 days 9 days 25 days 15 weeks
(5) Germany 27 hrs* 24 days 10-14 days (depending on state) 20 days 14 weeks
(6) Japan 33 hrs* 10 days; +1 day off for each yos (max: 20 days) N/A 10 days 14 weeks
(7) Hong Kong 40 hrs 7-14 days (depending yos) N/A 7 days 10 weeks
(8) Netherlands 27 hrs* 20 days 10 days 20 days 16 weeks
(9) United Kingdom 32 hrs* 28 days 8 days (9 for Scotland) 28 days 39 weeks
(10) Sweden 31 hrs* 25 days N/A 25 days 480 days
(11) Norway 27 hrs* 25 days 2 days 21 days 56 or 46 weeks
(12) United Arab Emirates 40 hrs 2 days/month for 1st year; 30 days for > 1 yos 10 days 25 days 45 days
(13) Denmark 27 hrs* 30 days 9 days 25 days 52 weeks
(14) Taiwan 40 hrs 7-30 days (dependent on yos) 25 days 7 days 8 weeks
(15) Canada 33 hrs* 10 days 5-10 days (depending on province) 10 days 50 weeks
(16) Qatar 40 hrs 15-20 days 10 days 15 days 50 days
(17) New Zealand 34 hrs* 20 days 11 days 20 days 14 weeks
(18) Belgium 30 hrs* 20-24 days (dependent on working days a week) 10 days 20 days 15 weeks
(19) Luxembourg 32 hrs* 25 days (extra 6 days of for workers with disabilities) 10 days 25 days 16 weeks
(20) Malaysia 40 hrs 8-16 days (depending on yos) 19 days 7 days 60 days
(21) Austria 31 hrs* 30-36 days (dependent on yos) 13 days 30/35 days 16 weeks
(22) Australia 32 hrs* 20 days (25 days for shiftworkers) 9-11 days 20 days 18 weeks
(23) France 29 hrs* 30 days (extra 22 days for > 35 working hrs/week) 1 day 25 days 16 weeks; 26 weeks for third child.
(24) Saudi Arabia 48 hrs 21-30 days (dependent on yos) 10 days 15 days 10 weeks
(25) Ireland 35 hrs* 20 days 9 days 20 days 26 weeks
(26) South Korea 42 hrs* 15-25 days (dependent on yos) N/A 15 days 90 days
(27) Israel 36 hrs* 10-28 days (dependent on yos) N/A 10 days 14 weeks
(28) China 44 hrs 5-15 days (dependent on yos) 11 days 5 days 98 days
(29) Estonia 36 hrs* 28 days (dependent on contract) N/A 20 days 140 days (extra 2 wks for medical complications)
(30) Iceland 33 hrs* 24 days 12 days 24 days 90 days

*doe – depending on employer; *yos – year of service

Sources:

  1. Top 30 Most Competitive Countries, Global Competitive Report
  2. List of statutory minimum employment leave by country, Wikipedia
  3. *Average annual hrs actually worked per worker, OECD
  4. Workweek and weekend, Wikipedia
  5. Parental leave, Wikipedia

Leaderboard

Now, we understand that the table above is contains a truckload of data and who has the vacation time to go through the data cell by cell, right? In this section we will just give you the summary for each category, in what we will call the leaderboards.

Let’s start with the working hours in a week.

Countries With The Most Working Hours:

  • 48 hrs – Saudi Arabia
  • 44 hrs – China
  • 42 hrs – South Korea
  • 40 hrs – Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates,
  • 36 hrs – Israel, Estonia

Countries With The Least Working Hours:

  • 27 hrs – Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Denmark
  • 29 hrs – France
  • 30 hrs – Switzerland, Belgium
  • 31 hrs – Sweden, Austria
  • 32 hrs – Luxembourg, Australia

If you are looking for the country that tops the chart in highest number of mandated annual leave, check this out:

Countries With The Most Annual Leave (days):

  • 30 days – Finland, France, Denmark, Austria
  • 28 days – United Kingdom, Estonia
  • 24 days – Germany, Iceland
  • 25 days – Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg
  • 21 days – Saudi Arabia

Countries With The Least Annual Leave (days):

  • 0 days – United States
  • 5 days – China
  • 7 days – Taiwan, Hong Kong
  • 8 days – Singapore, Malaysia
  • 10 days – Israel, Canada, Japan

If you wonder if vacation days actually have the influence on productivity in the workplace, then these are the leaderboards you want to see.

Countries With The Most Paid Vacation Days:

  • 30 days – Austria
  • 28 days – United Kingdom
  • 25 days – Finland, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, Denmark, Luxembourg, France
  • 24 days – Iceland
  • 21 days – Norway

Countries With The Least Paid Vacation Days:

  • 0 days – United States
  • 5 days – China
  • 7 days – Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia
  • 10 days – Japan, Canada, Israel
  • 15 days – Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Korea

Parental leave, a controversial topic for many countries including the United States. Here are the countries that give parents a whole lot of time off, and those that didn’t.

Countries With The Longest Parental Leave:

  • 480 days – Sweden
  • 56 weeks – Norway
  • 52 weeks – Denmark
  • 50 weeks – Canada
  • 26 weeks – Ireland

Countries With The Shortest Parental Leave:

  • 45 days – United Arab Emirates
  • 50 days – Qatar
  • 8 weeks – Taiwan
  • 60 days – Malaysia
  • 10 weeks – Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia

Lastly, here are the leaderboards on paid public holidays, also known as holidays that you get to take a break while still on a payroll.

Countries With The Most Paid Public Holidays:

  • 25 days – Taiwan
  • 19 days – Malaysia
  • 13 days – Austria
  • 12 days – Iceland
  • 11 days – Singapore

Countries With The Least Paid Public Holidays:

  • 0 days – United States
  • 1 day – France
  • 2 days – Norway
  • 5 days – Canada
  • 8 days – United Kingdom

Visual Aid

To our readers who adopt the tl;dr approach, here’s an infographic that can help you better visualize the amount of data featured here, designed by our friends in Piktochart.

Editor’s note: This infographic is available at Piktochart and is free to use.

Conclusion

While our methods are far from scientific, we’re not seeing a pattern where more vacation days is contributing to higher productivity or competitiveness of a particular country. Then again, the data is all here and up for your scrutiny and interpretation.

Let us know what you think.

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