Summer Has Arrived — But Where’s the Time Off?

The summer months should be a time to spend with our families, visit relatives in other cities, see new places, and simply hang out and get some rest. But for many workers, any extra time for family or relaxation has to be squeezed into our schedules before we have to clock back in to work.

The U.S. is the only wealthy nation in the world that doesn’t guarantee workers annual time off. In the U.S., workers take less time off than workers in any other wealthy country, taking an average of 11 vacation days per year compared to 20 days taken by workers in other wealthy countries. At the same time, the number of U.S. workers who take a full week off has decreased by 50% since 1980. And for low-wage workers (those in the bottom 25% of the workforce in terms of pay), over 50% of them receive no paid time off, not even sick days.

If our job even offers vacation time, we often have to work there for many years before we might be able to get multiple days off in a row. And if we do get time off, we rarely get the days we want since we have to request them so far in advance. So, we’re usually stuck with taking a day or two here or there at best. Some workers might use their sick days, but for many of us that could mean risking our jobs. Often, it ends up meaning we get no real time off at all.

And with any time off that we can get, it’s harder to spend it doing what we actually want. Everything has become more expensive, and our wages aren’t keeping up. If we were thinking about going on a road trip, gas prices make us think twice whenever we fill up our tanks. The same is true for traveling by air. Airline prices have gone up 16% since 2019. Interested in going camping? Years of budget cuts have not only closed down many state parks, but also raised fees to visit them — if you are lucky to even get a spot. So even if we get time off, it’s more difficult to spend it on a vacation.

The bosses just want to squeeze as much work out of us as possible. But we do the work to make this society run, and we should have the good things in life as well, especially the most valuable thing in the world — time.