NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Europe's Long Vacations

August 8, 2002

American workers are workaholics compared to their European counterparts. Twenty years ago, Europeans worked just as long and hard as the rest of the developed world. Over the years however, they steadily cut back on workweeks, while lengthening vacations -- and the trend has only accelerated in recent years.

  • Vacation time has nearly doubled since the 1970s in Italy, Spain and the Netherlands -- and around six weeks off is now the annual norm across Europe.
  • This year, France extended its three-year-old law reducing the workweek to 35 hours from 39, and the far-reaching measure now includes companies with fewer than 20 employees.
  • While Americans work about 1,800 hours a year, the typical German worker puts in around 1,400.
  • Consequently, European economic growth in the first half of this year will probably only hit 1 percent -- compared to 3 percent in the U.S.

U.S. growth per capita, a common measure of standard of living, grew at twice the rate of Europe's largest economies in the 1990s.

Source: Christopher Rhoads, "Short Work Hours Undercut Europe in Economic Drive," Wall Street Journal, August 8, 2002.


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