NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 30, 2005

With unemployment at 10 percent and travel costs rising, nearly 40 percent of the French do not take extended vacations away from home, says the Associated Press. Observers call the trend very worrisome, since the vacation is a potent symbol in French society, a visible sign of a certain social standing.

Considered a privilege of the elite for the first half of the 20th century, the vacation was "democratized" during the prolonged economic boom following World War II. Today, the French enjoy an average of seven weeks of paid time off annually, with August as the assumed month of vacation.

  • The number of French who took annual vacations rose continuously in the decades following World War II, growing from an estimated 30 percent of the population in 1950 to more than 70 percent in the early 1980s.
  • Today, nearly 4 out of every 10 French people do not go on vacation at any time of the year -- nearly half of them because they cannot afford it, according to a 2004 study by researchers at the Tourism Ministry.
  • The French work an average of 1,441 hours per year, compared with 1,661 hours for the British and 1,824 for Americans, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reports.

All European nations guarantee employees between four and five weeks of paid vacation a year. The French average seven weeks of paid vacation a year -- two more than the country's labor laws stipulate. The United States and Australia are the only industrialized countries without national minimums on the length of vacations, according to the International Labor Organization.

Jean Froidure, a tourism expert at the University of Toulouse, says not going on vacation can cause people to lose confidence not only in their own future, but also in French society in general.

Source: Associated Press, "Underworked French Can't Afford Their Paid Vacations," August 18, 2005.


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