Earlier this week, voters in Switzerland went to the polls and said “no” to an additional two weeks vacation a year.
In a national referendum, 66.5% opposed the chance to put Switzerland in line with its neighbor Germany, where employees enjoy six-week paid vacation every year.
The Swiss apparently considered previous warnings of the government and business representatives who claimed that an additional fortnight of paid holidays increase labor costs and put their economy at risk.
“In rejecting the initiative, citizens have kept a sense of reality,” says Hans-Ulrich Bigler, director of the Swiss Union of Arts and Crafts, which represents about 300,000 businesses, in a statement. The two weeks could have cost the economy 6 billion Swiss francs ($6.53 billion) a year, he says.
Federal Councilor Jean-Francois Rime told the Telegraph that “the Swiss are reasonable enough” in saying no.
But Travail Suisse disagreed. The Swiss trade union launched the “6 weeks vacation for all” campaign after it found that a third of Swiss employees suffers from stress at work and blamed the “no” faction of using scare tactics amid the eurozone crisis.
Travail Suisse argues that, according to an estimate of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs Seco, health problems as a result of the work load will cost the country 10 billion francs ($10.8 billion) per year.
The Swiss vote touches a topic that has long triggered debate: Does total vacation time enhance or hurt a country’s economic performance?
According to Bloomberg, countries with long vacations are not necessarily lacking strong economic performance. In a 2009 survey it revealed that although the U.S. was the world’s most competitive country, if you factor the GDP per hours worked each year some countries with higher vacation levels outperformed the U.S.
Based on data from the Organization of Economic Co-Operation and Development, Belgium and the Netherlands, with 30 and 28 vacation days per year, respectively, were 2% more productive in 2009 than the US. Luxemburg was 27% more efficient while mandating 32 days vacation per year.
Europe’s leading economies France and Germany were only 2% and 7%, respectively, behind the U.S. in terms of GDP per hours worked.
A study by the American Economic Journal, examined whether the elimination of a summer break influences student achievements. The results show that year-round schooling does not improve students’ academic success.
In a vacation study between September 19 and October 9, 2011, by the online travel company Expedia, 7,083 respondents across 20 countries were asked how many vacation days per year they receive and how many of them they actually use.
Expedia vacation survey
|Days given||Days taken||Days unused|
Germany, France, Spain and Denmark top the list with 30 paid vacation days, while the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and the UK come in second with 25 days. European respondents also turn most of it into holidays. German respondents said they use 28 of 30 days, while France, Spain, Sweden and Denmark use all of them. American respondents earn 14 days, from which they use 12.
Asia, however, is more vacation averse. According to the survey, Japan is the most vacation-deprived nation in the world, with respondents saying they receive 11 paid days each year but only use five of them. South Koreans take seven out of their 10 days.
Hard working employees can also be found in India, where five days from a total of 20 are not used, respondents said. “In India, vacations tend to be viewed as a guilty habit,” marketing head of Expedia India, Manmeet Ahluwalia, said in a press release. “As many as 54% Indians spend vacations usually secretly checking emails.”
Besides economic performance, vacation levels might have an impact on the employees’ temper. Top scorers in the recent Legatum Institute’s list of the world’s happiest countries have many things in common.
One of them, however, is a high number of vacation days.