mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Friday, May 18, 2007

We don't need no vacation...

I saw this scrolling along the bottom of the screen on FoxNews on the Precor at the gym yesterday - evidently, some think tank has released a study lamenting that the United States is the only "rich" country that doesn't have government- guarenteed vacation days, while some EU countries have government guarenteed vacations.

Gee, I wonder if it's a coincidence that the US also has a higher GDP per hour worked than Europe, in addition to working more hours.

I think the current system we have for vacation is optimal. In the US, employers have the choice of how much vacation they offer, and potential employees can use that as one of the factors when they are looking for or deciding to take a job. Some people may prefer more vacation days to other benefits, such as better health insurance, a shorter commute, or a more enjoyable job, and pick their job accordingly.

Personally, I've never really liked vacation days. It doesn't make sense for me to sit at home doing nothing (which is what I'm doing now - I took the day off, because they are replacing the AC air exchanger in Casa De Mad). I enjoy my job for the most part, plus I worry that not being at work hurts my career - if I'm not there, I can't keep up my stats, plus management may realize that they function just as smoothly when I'm out than when I'm not. I suppose things might be different if I had kids or if my family was nearby, but holidays and a day off here or there are enough for me to travel to NJ to see them. I can't really afford to travel, so vacation days end up being me either sitting around the house or running errands - so I'd rather be at work. In an ideal world, I would be able to sell or trade my vacation days.

The article has two rather contradictory quotes:

"The United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation days and paid holidays," said economist John Schmitt.... "Relying on businesses to voluntarily provide paid leave just hasn't worked," he added. "It's a national embarrassment that 28 million Americans don't get any paid vacation or paid holidays."

but at the same time:

Despite the lack of government guarantees, 90 percent of U.S. employers offered vacation, the study found. Workers received an average of nine days of paid vacation and six paid holidays, a total of 15 days off per year.

That would suggest that the market is working - that even though companies don't HAVE to offer paid vacation time, they do - because they know that some workers place a high value on vacation days, and won't take a job that doesn't offer them, or doesn't offer enough of them. And I wonder how many of those who don't get paid vacations or holidays are part-time employees.

Vacation days are a form of payment. They are a price born by the hiring organization given to workers as compensation. Requiring a minimum amount by law reduces the flexibility of the job market, and makes some people - those who would prefer a higher wage or other benefits to additional vacation days - worse off. If the European economy, which typically underperforms the US, is any indication, it would also make our economy worse off.


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