Are You Suffering from Vacation Deprivation?

ByABC News
June 20, 2003, 6:29 PM

June 25 -- If it feels like you're stuck behind your desk on a sunny summer day while the rest of the world is on vacation, that's because you are and it is.

Few other industrialized countries have as little vacation time as America, where there aren't even legal guarantees of vacation time.

Just ask Matthew Mortellaro. Working in his first job out of college, the 23-year-old New York City-based publicist is already disillusioned with the world of work. The reason? He only gets five paid vacation days a year.

Mortellaro's company, which he declined to name, grants five vacation days to its employees after they've been working at the job more than six months. A year later, they get a total of 10 vacation days.

But for the St. Louis native, who often uses his vacation time to go home to visit his family, the short amount of time off has become a sore subject, especially when friends in Europe enjoy a month of vacation each year in their first jobs out of school.

"It kind of annoys me and makes me feel unfulfilled," says Mortellaro. "Is that all my life is about working? What's the point of working all the time when all you do is work? I want to be able to appreciate it, too."

Mortellaro's experience is typical of many Americans, most of whom get very little vacation time when compared to workers in other industrialized nations. U.S. workers aren't guaranteed any vacation time by law and take an average of 10.2 vacation days a year after three years on the job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In contrast, workers in the United Kingdom are guaranteed 20 paid vacation days by law and take an average of 25 days off a year. Even in notoriously hard-working Japan, workers have a legal right to 10 days off and take an average of almost 18 vacation days a year.

Vacation Time Shrinking

Now there are signs many Americans are taking even less vacation. With the U.S. unemployment rate continuing to tick upwards, many recruiters and work-life experts say they're noticing workers are becoming more reluctant to take time off.