Canada’s a pretty great place to live. And it’s not just us tooting our own horns when we say that—international rankings place us consistently at or near the top of the list when it comes to comparing quality of life in different countries. We’ve got accessible, high-quality health care, a good education system, and, overall, a fantastic quality of life.
We fall way short of our international awesomeness in one area, though: paid vacation time.
Canadian are overworked and under-vacationed
Yup. According to a 2013 study done by the Centre for Economic and Policy Research, Canada ranks third last among economically advanced countries in terms of mandatory paid vacation days—and, quite frankly, we fall well behind many countries that aren’t so economically advanced as well.
Most Canadians get 10 paid vacation days—two five-day workweeks—of leave per year, with folks who live in Saskatchewan getting an additional five days. In addition, depending on the province or territory, workers also get six to 10 additional paid holidays: federal holidays like New Year’s Day, for example, or provincial holidays like Family Day or Islanders Day.
That sounds great—a minimum of 16 days off!—until you start comparing that with other countries. Then our vacation time seems…well, a little depressing. Certainly enough to make you want to take a vacation.
Let’s consider Austria. They get 25 paid vacation days (yes, that’s five workweeks). Plus, they also get 13 paid public holidays, bringing the grand total of days off in a year up to a whopping 38. In France and Finland, people get 25 vacation days and 11 paid holidays. In Cambodia, there are only 15 paid vacation days, but a whopping 27 paid holidays.
But that’s not even the top of the pile.
Kuwaitis get 30 days of paid vacation and 13 paid holidays. (If you’re doing the math, that’s 43 days.) On top of that, once you’ve worked at your job for two years, you get a one-time 21-day leave to perform the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca that observant Muslims must make once in their lifetimes.
We don’t use the days we get
We probably shouldn’t complain too much, though. One study by Expedia showed that, in 2015, Canadians chose not to take a whopping 10 million vacation days overall—demonstrating that even if we had more days available, we might not take them.
That’s probably not a good idea. Burnout isn’t great for productivity, and working too much has a demonstrably negative effect on your health. In fact, Japan—which ranks even lower than Canada in available paid time off and willingness to take vacation—has a word for death caused by “occupational exhaustion”: karoshi.
Beyond the health risks, though, vacations can be a valuable time to step away and start to think about your job in new ways, giving you valuable perspective and, often, new ways to look at and solve problems.
Or, you know, just catching up on sleep and that novel you’ve been meaning to read for four years. That’s a good thing too.
Some companies have instituted mandatory vacation, essentially forcing workers to stay out of the office for a set time every year. Still other organizations offer unlimited vacation, with the idea that employees who take the time they need will be better rested and therefore more creative and, ultimately, productive.
So take the vacation days you’ve got. Go to the cottage. Go somewhere interesting. Or just stay home and enjoy where you are.
And get into the spirit of your province’s public holidays, too. After all, why wouldn’t you want to celebrate Louis Riel Day (Manitoba), St. Patrick’s Day (Newfoundland and Labrador), or Grey Cup Parade Day (Prince Edward Island)?
We’re not the worst
Of course, even with our paltry 10 days, it could be worse: we could live in the US, who ranks last. Dead last. That’s because there is no federally mandated paid vacation time at all, leaving it up to employers to grant leave. This means that almost a quarter of Americans get no paid vacation or public holidays at all—and the average number of paid vacation days among employees who do get leave is 7.6 days. So it could be worse.
But it could be so, so much better.