Stressed Americans don't use their measly vacation time

November 16, 2012: 3:36 PM ET
work vacation
U.S. workers received an average of 12 vacation days in 2012, but only used 10 of them, according to Expedia's survey.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

Not only did American workers receive fewer vacation days from their bosses this year, but they also took less of them off.

U.S. workers received an average of 12 vacation days in 2012, down from 14 in 2011, according to an annual survey of almost 8,700 people from 22 countries commissioned by Expedia. And, of those vacation days, they only took 10 of them off.

Overworked Americans can place some of the blame on the economy. Jobs are coming back, but many people are returning to work in a new position or another career entirely, and less seniority often means less vacation time.

"People newly back in the work force are starting at the front end of that vacation accumulation," says Sarah Keeling, Expedia's director of communications. "If you look at the national economy and the history of jobs in the last few years that adds up and can shift a study like this."

Europeans, on the other hand, have almost a full month of vacation -- 25 to 30 days -- and take almost every single day off available to them (with the exception of Italians, which let 8 of their 25 vacation days slip away).

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"In Europe [vacation time has been] part of national policy for so long they would really just not think of it another way," Keeling says. "[In North America] it's much less of a birthright and much more... optional."

The only region working longer and harder than America was Asia. Asian workers took the smallest number of days off and put in the longest work weeks, at an average of 44 hours. While Japanese workers were granted 13 days off last year, they took less than half of them off. South Koreans only took seven of their allotted 10 vacation days.

The most popular reasons workers across the globe gave for giving up vacation days included difficulties scheduling with friends and family and the option to roll over unused days to the next year. In the U.S., UK, Canada, Ireland and Japan, however, the primary reason was they just couldn't afford it.

One thing that was almost universal: Everyone loves to go to the beach. Eighteen of the 22 countries surveyed chose the beach as their ideal vacation destination, but ideology differences again existed when it came to checking in with the boss while at a sandy paradise.

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Most Brazilians and Indians said they frequently check in with the office and 68% of Americans said they either call in "regularly" or "sometimes," too. Meanwhile, a full 62% of Germans said they never check in once they've checked out.

"Americans believe their employers are gifting them those vacation days, and you feel like you owe it back to your employers to take your vacation by checking in and emailing on your phone," Keeling says.

This is the 12th year Expedia has commissioned the survey, which is conducted by Harris Interactive. Countries have been added to the survey over the years, the most recent additions being Malaysia and Taiwan.

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