Analysis of annual leave around the world

The interest in the issue work/life balance continues to grow. From the employee’s and company’s perspective, health creates wealth. Companies recognize that a healthy, happy workforce is a productive one and this feeds directly into the bottom line. How companies interpret holiday regulations provision is a major factor. With pay rises muted and often below the rate of inflation, companies are searching for other ways to motivate their staff. Flexible working and a good employee work/life balance helps improve employee engagement when the usual financial tools are unavailable.

Holiday entitlement is often more complex since actual holiday provisions often depends on company contracts and the number and treatment of public holidays.

Workers in Western European countries, on average, have access to the greatest amount of statutory paid holiday in the world. In contrast, employees in Asia Pacific have the lowest levels of statutory paid holiday. Workers in the UK have, on the face of it, one of the most generous statutory holiday entitlements (28 days) while workers in the United States of America have the least with no statutory holiday entitlement.

Employees with the potential for most holiday time is Austria with 25 days statutory holiday entitlement and 13 days public holidays and Malta with 24 days statutory holiday entitlement and 14 days public holiday. In both countries employees have the potential for 38 days holiday a year. The Philippines and Canada have the lowest possible entitlements with 20 and 19 days, respectively. Employees in Columbia have the greatest number of public holidays (18 days) while those in Mexico (7) have the least.

HR Strategy_Annual leave around the worldWhat are the main differences among regions?

Western Europe
UK employees receive the most generous statutory holiday entitlements in Western Europe (28 days) followed closely by Greece, Austria, France, Sweden, Luxembourg, Finland and Denmark (all 25 days). Employees are slightly worse off in Malta (24), Spain and Portugal (both 22) and Norway (21). In Italy, Belgium, Germany, Cyprus, Ireland, Switzerland and the Netherlands employees are entitled to 20 days statutory holidays. Cyprus offers the highest number of public holidays (15) followed by Malta and Spain (both 14) and Austria and Portugal (both 13). The UK and the Netherlands have the lowest number of public holidays in Europe (8).

Central and Eastern Europe
Poland (26 days) offers employees the most generous holiday entitlements in Eastern Europe, followed by Hungary (23). Latvia, Russia, Slovenia, Serbia, Slovakia, Lithuania, Croatia, the Czech Republic and Romania all offer 20 days statutory holiday. The Ukraine offers 18 days and Turkey has the region’s lowest entitlements at 17 days. Across the region there are more public holidays on offer compared to Western European countries. Slovakia offers the highest number of public holidays (15) with Serbia offering the least (8).

Middle East and Africa
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) with 22 days make provision for the greatest amount of statutory holidays in the region, followed by Morocco (18), Lebanon (15) and South Africa (15). The Lebanon offers the highest number of public holidays (16) followed by Morocco (14), South Africa (12) and the UAE (9).

North and Latin America
The two North American states, Canada and the United States are amongst the least generous nations when it comes to statutory holidays. US Federal law does not mandate pay for time not worked and holiday policies vary widely. Many organisations in the US provide three weeks of vacation after five to ten years of service and unionised employees generally have vacation time specified under collective agreements. In Canada, mandatory vacation entitlements vary between provinces and companies typically supplement statutory requirements and some organisations provide up to six weeks’ vacation after 20 or 25 years of service.  The story is markedly different in Latin America. Employees in Venezuela receive 24 days holiday followed by Brazil and Peru (both 22), Argentina (20) and Mexico (16) with Colombia and Chile both offering employees the region’s least generous entitlement of 15 days. However, employees in Colombia also receive the regions most generous public holiday allowance of 18 days a year, followed by Chile (14), Argentina (12), Peru (12) and Venezuela (12). Canada and Ecuador have amongst the continent’s least generous public holiday allowance (9), with Mexico coming at the bottom with 7 days.

Employees in Asia fare poorly when their statutory holiday entitlements are compared with the rest of the world. Japan, Australia and New Zealand offer employees the region’s highest levels of statutory holiday entitlement (20 days) equal to many countries in Western Europe. These are followed by South Korea (19), Malaysia (16) and Taiwan (15). Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam and Pakistan all provide 14 days followed by India and Indonesia (both 12) and China (10). Thailand (6) and the Philippines (5) offer the region’s lowest holiday entitlement.

After read all of this I only can make question, Why are there these differences among countries? even if they are relatively close each other? This is a good point to analyze

Note: Information provided by HRSDC, Mercer & Wikipedia.

Borja Burguillos & Maria Lopez

Author: Borja Burguillos

Global People Strategy

5 thoughts on “Analysis of annual leave around the world”

  1. What is the source and basis for these numbers? Were these for private employers or public (government) employers such as schools, universities, hospitals, etc.

    1. Hi Hashim,

      You can find the source and basis for these numbers at the end of the article “Information provided by HRSDC, Mercer & Wikipedia”.
      The information shown is the minimum required by law in each country. There could be differences it depends of a specific region of specific law applicable for special situation.

      For sure, as you said there are differences between private employers or public (government) employers but the law is applicable for both. The common practice is that employers offer more holiday than private employers as extra benefit to give for employees probably because they tend pay less salary.


  2. Hi Borja,

    Thanks for your positive response.

    I saw the note at the end of the article, but I was seeking more details. I have two reasons; to educate myself and to use such sources if ever the need arises in the future.

    Regardless, I thank you for the article as it is not only an eye opener (an issue rarely considered by employers or employees involved in overseas employment).

    I am also glad that you got the jest of my message in that though these might be base on credible sources, they are averages of certain employers and based on certain criteria to determine a holiday from a public holiday, etc….!

    Thanks again and I look forward to your next post.


    1. Hi Hashim,

      Thanks for your comments and feedback. Always is positive.

      I would really like do a more deep study about what you say taking into consideration other variables as public holidays.

      To be honest the point that I see here is why there are these differences and how will be the trends in relation to holidays entitlement for next few years.


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