Survey shows Japanese workers least likely to take vacation time

By Scott R Dixon

With the abundance of public holidays and an average of 18 vacation days per year, the stereotype of the overworked and exhausted Japanese worker may seem like a relic of the past. But a recent survey by Expedia Japan comparing the vacation schedules of 24 countries proves yet again that the stereotype is alive and well.

For the sixth year in a row, Japan came in dead last as workers are only taking an average of 39% of their annual paid leave. And perhaps unsurprisingly, Japan ranked last in worker satisfaction.

Despite Japan coming close to the global average of 20 vacation days a year, the average Japanese worker only takes seven of those – and not necessarily for fun, but sometimes instead of sick days – leading to Japan’s position as most exhausted country.

But South Korea came in a very close second, as workers there also only took seven of their vacation days. However, since Korean workers only have an average of 10 days to take off in total, the ratio was not as dramatic as in Japan. On the complete opposite end of the chart, well-rested French and Brazilian workers take all 30 of their allotted 30 vacation days.

The chart shows 13 of the surveyed countries and how Japan ranks lowest in days taken off to vacation days available ratio. The gray portion of the bar represents the average number of vacation days in a country, and the blue portion shows how many of those days are actually taken.

Japanese workers also ranked high in another list: the percentage of workers who don’t take any vacation. A whopping 17% of Japan is apparently so dedicated to their job that they will not take a single day of paid vacation off. Americans do, however, come pretty close with 13% of the country’s workforce not taking any time off. Meanwhile, there wasn’t a single Australian in the survey that didn’t take at least one day off during the year.

As expected, Japan also came in last in the survey in worker satisfaction, with only 60% of Japanese workers liking their job situation. Norway came out top with 90% of its residents loving their work, while India and Malaysia came in 2nd and 3rd, respectively.

Japanese Internet commenters were not especially shocked by the outcome of the survey, but many expressed their displeasure at having to face such a dismal work life. Some were decidedly unhappy about the toll “modern” and “advanced” Japan took on their personal life.

-- Yesterday I took a trip with my family. It was the first time I used my vacation days for an actual vacation in 16 years.

-- At my company, you only ask for time off if you are able to handle seeing the boss angry.

-- In my old company, we had to “apply” to take a holiday and give them the reasons why.

-- When my kid was sick, I had to use my vacation days to take care of him and before I knew it, they were all gone. Of course, the company doesn’t understand why I’m so exhausted after my “break.”

Most blamed the work culture of Japan for not encouraging its workers to take time off and some wondered if the system would ever change. A few had success stories about how their boss or company had come around and was quite happy to give employees time off to rest and relax.

Source: Netorabo

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Three company presidents adored by their employees -- Why do the Japanese Work Such Long Hours? -- 7 things that surprise Japanese people working in foreign offices

© RocketNews24

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'We don't vacate', worn with a perverse sense of pride, a badge of self-approved honor. Sad, harmful and not even actually of substance. If efficiency, productivity and 'my time' were actually instead the goals aimed for and achieved... well, praise be. BUT we all know that simply is not the case, is it. Japan, you need to set yourself free from time wastage and live.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Never changed since the growth went to decline by the end of 1989. In where vacations mean to their instincts as a precession to their dismissal, this wasn't true from 1950 to 1989

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Not surprised at this really. I love Japan, but this is the one thing that I don't love about it. After working 15 hour days some time ago, I ended up coming down with severe depression, anxiety and panic disorder. It lasted 6 years.

You have one life, and one sense of well being. Never compromise on it, ever.

10 ( +11 / -2 )

Hardest working population in the world, bar none!

-16 ( +4 / -20 )

From what I've seen (when working in a Japanese company) they don't really "need" any "vacation" time... they may LOOK LIKE they're working but they are very often doing something quite different. Staying "overtime" in the evenings is because they didn't do much work during the day. They also want to "look good" in the eyes of their employer. (It used to be in order to receive "over-time pay" but I hear that that no longer exists now...)

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Japan is not about working hard or being efficient, it's more about pretending that you do. Everyone living long enough here knows that.

On top of this, people in Japan have the bad habit to think that they have the right to judge each other. Most people don't take holidays because they are also scared to be seen as lazy by their colleagues and the group mentality (by the way a totally flawed social pattern) makes it so that people are afraid to be excluded from the group. Taking holidays which is a right protected by law is seen as one of the reasons to be excluded from it.

All added, most of the people in this country ruin their life because of some silly social pressure.

15 ( +14 / -1 )

MumbaiRocks!DEC. 15, 2013 - 10:38AM JST As you can see in my home country of India, we have the right balance going on. Oh yeah!

Not to burst your bubble, but I would say Brazil and France have the "right balance" - take the time off you are given!!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I havent seen more than 5 days of vacations in a year

0 ( +2 / -3 )

This is really bad news. I'm staying home tomorrow!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

To echo some of what has been said, the Japanese have a lot of facades that they want to keep up for the world to see. This 'we work harder than everyone' is one of them. Well, I know I work harder than all of the Japanese co-workers I've ever had. I also know how to organize, prioritize, work efficiently, problem solve, see a potential problem and multi-task. These skills are almost non-existent in the office where I work. I take my vacation days regularly, do almost no overtime and feel virtually no stress. I guess this makes me a 'lazy westerner.' Oh, well. By the way, boss, I'll be taking Feb. 2nd off so my lazy arse can watch the Super Bowl.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Hardest working population in the world, bar none!

Haha, that's funny.

Pretentious Yes-men dare not take time off for fear of appearing "unsupportive". Meanwhile, in the enlightened parts of the world, people have come to understand that time off means you have a chance to refresh and come back to work with new ideas. It's a small wonder Japan is stomping on the same spot it was 30 years ago when so many people don't get real vacations.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

As mentioned, it's more about putting in the extra hours for the company and less about being productive.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I wonder how much of this is related to bullying and intimidation in the workplace? Most of the people I talk to are too scared to take vacations for fear of losing their job.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I average about 15 days paid leave a year ( in my eyes at least 10 days too few ). Two weeks at Christmas to visit my parents in the UK is sacrosanct and I've never had trouble getting those holidays. Some of the new staff don't take a single day during their first two or three years and some of the older staff don't take days off but do sod all while they are there anyway. One 50-something manager proudly told me he hadn't taken paid leave for 3 years ( there was a barb in there, I don't think I was being paranoid) but I suppose you don't really need a break from organizing piss-ups or Mahjong evenings.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'll never understand how Japanese insist on making such a miserable struggle for each other, particularly at the workplace.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Back when I worked in a Japanese company, I took all my vacations every year. But I was the only one. Other staff took vacation as well, but never more than a few days here or there.

There was never any of this 'I'm afraid to lose my job' though - we were all seishain and Japanese people know as well as foreigners, if not better, that it's almost impossible to fire a seishain. But they all knew that when other people took vacation they were thinking 'what's with this guy?', so they didn't want to take vacation because they knew all the other Japanese staff would be thinking that about them.

It's not fear of getting fired, it's fear of getting looked down upon by co-workers.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In the Japanese company I worked at we had an overbearing boss who would moan and grumble if you asked for time off. He gave me a 90 minute lecture once after I asked for two weeks off, saying he'd never heard of such a long holiday. But with several months advanced notice he couldn't come up with any excuse to disallow it. Before I left the company I took my remaining five weeks of accumulated leave in one block, which wound him up even more. I sent him some postcards from various exotic locations.

In the university there is no problem taking holidays, but still most of my colleagues don't take much time off. They claim to be perpetually "busy", but it's not clear to me exactly what they are doing that is so urgent.

3 ( +2 / -0 )

This is the one thing I don't like about Japan: their harmful work ethic. If Japan would get this straight I would go there and never leave.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I have spent over ten years in a Japanese office, and one thing I've noticed above all is the people who spend longest in their chairs produce the least actual input into the company's bottom line. Sitting in a chair, staring at an excel sheet, for 14 hours a day, every day, producing nothing yet refusing to see your own family or entertain the concept of leisure time is not the same thing as working hard.

It is a certifiable attitude, of benefit to no-one.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I get 12 vacation days off . If we are sick we have to take the sick days out of those 12 vacation leave days.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@homleand, Hardest working population in the world, bar none! well that hasnt seemed to help the economy during the last 20+years, also having one of the highest suicide rates and lowest mental health rates in the world also doesnt justify it, only South Korea has similar levels of suicide and low mental health, they also work almost as much as the Japanese. you see a pattern here dont you?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

For the sixth year in a row, Japan came in dead last

A rather appropriate phrase considering the topic and recent stories regarding 'karoshi' I think!

Obligation has caused an awful lot of misery in the far east.

1 ( +1 / -0 )


Hardest working population in the world, bar none!

Mate, there's a difference between 'being at work' and 'being productive'. The two are often confused...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Scrote-I like your sense of humour. The boss must have done cartwheels when he got your postcards.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Workers should have the freedom to choose. Given a reasonable opportunity of vacation days, if someone takes only a few or no vacation, then it's up to them so long as they can handle it. But if someone wants to take those vacation days, as long as they pull their weight when they're working, then they should be able to take those vacation without feeling guilty about it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan is a slave mentality, the rich company has all the power and we workers are just poor, little hungry slaves but are better off than those in North Korea, so we should all rejoice!! Japan Inc. banzai!!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Hmm, if there`s a public holiday on Saturday in Japan then there is no day-off on Monday. The country could have even more long weekends if it chose to

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

daito_hakDec. 15, 2013 - 10:04AM JST

Japan is not about working hard or being efficient, it's more about pretending that you do

I love reading your posts. You are very honest and see things the way it is and tell it the way it is.

Unless the Ministry of Labor is willing to increase the awareness that the time off is not a gift from organizations, instead, it is something workers themselves earned, Japanese organizations will continue taking an advantage of workers rights. The Ministry of Labor needs to do a lot for change if Japan wants to stay as the 3rd largest economy in the world. The sweat shop mentality has to go and end.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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