Project: Time Off’s “The State of American Vacation” report for 2017 is out, and it’s biggest revelation is that, while Americans still suck at taking time off, we may be getting better. According to the report, the average American took roughly 16.8 vacation days in 2016, an improvement from the 16.2 days in 2015. This may not seem like a particularly large increase, but it remains significant because it represents a glimmer of hope that Americans may shed the “workaholic martyr” attitude and claim what is rightfully theirs.
America’s extreme work culture has made it so employees feel like they can’t take advantage of their allowed vacation days. As a result, an estimated 662 million vacation days went unused last year. Yes, this hurts workers, but it also hurts the economy: The report indicates that last year, “unused vacation days cost the U.S. economy $236 billion” that could have supported as many as 1.8 million jobs for U.S. workers.
Along with the general theme that Americans aren’t great at vacation, the report revealed a number of insights about the American workforce. Including the fact that women are worse at taking time off than men. Only 44 percent of American women used all of their vacation days, compared to 48 percent of men.
Seeing a slight increase in average vacation days taken is a promising sign, but 16.8 is still a far cry from the 20.3 days of vacation the average American was taking from 1976 to 2000. The U.S. also has a long way to go to catch up with the rest of the world, where time off is encouraged and often paid for by the government. Such countries as Denmark, Germany, and Spain offer generous amounts of vacation time because they get that a happy, well-rested employee means better work. America may be improving when it comes to taking vacations but we still have a long way to go to catch up with the rest of the world.