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aug 05

Vacation time debate: Is it really better in Europe?

We all know that the American worker's two weeks of annual paid vacation pales in comparison with the months of vacation time granted to Europeans. But is the vacation gap really as big as you think?

Over at the New York Times Room for Debate blog, UCLA historian Peter Baldwin argues that Americans, in fact, aren't deprived of vacations, and aren't being worked to the bone:

In terms of the number of hours actually worked annually, the U.S. ranks only a smidgen above the O.E.C.D. average (2008 figures) and in any case below the Islanders, the Israelis, the Italians, the Greeks, not to mention most Eastern Europeans, the Japanese and the drones of the world, the South Koreans.

His counterpart in the debate, labor lawyer and author Thomas Geoghegan, says that the vacation gap between Europeans and Americans is not only real -- it's bigger than most people think:

As a labor lawyer, I think the U.S.-Europe gap is understated. In the U.S., with no labor movement or government to enforce limits on hours, it's impossible to get an honest count. Read Kim Bobo's "Wage Theft,"documenting the staggering number of Americans who work for free, extra hours, for no pay.

Geoghegan cites statistics that refute Baldwin's statistics, stating that, for instance, the average American works about 350 more hours per year than the average German. So who are we to believe?

Personally, I trust the insight of someone who has lived on both sides of the Atlantic, like this commenter:

I am a US expat in Europe, who gets six weeks of vacation a year and doesn't miss US vacation practices for a nano-second. It's August, and I am going away for 3 weeks, and I just love it. Actually, I don't even love it anymore, I just take it for granted.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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