American Workers Get Less Social Security and Less Paid Time Off Than Workers in Other Countries

Front view of eldery man landscaping and taking care of plants in garden.
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Despite being one of the most developed — and richest — countries in the world, the United States pays it retirees less than other countries

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According to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, most other developed countries have more generous public pension systems than the United States. The numbers show that the United States falls below the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development average of 49% for Social Security benefits for average workers as a percentage of earnings. Meanwhile, economies with less robust economies, like Italy, Austria, Portugal and Spain, top the list with benefits replacing 70%-80% of earnings in some cases. 

The U.S. system replaces about 40% of earnings, placing it in the bottom third among major developed nations.

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Americans are also working longer than their OECD counterparts. According to Clockify, a full-time employee in the United States works 1,757 hours per year. Compare that to hours worked in other wealthy countries: 


Country Hours Worked Per Year
U.S. 1,757
Japan 1,738
U.K. 1.670
Germany 1,354
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Have some friends across the pond who say this doesn’t add up? The difference comes from time off. “The U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world that has no legally mandated annual leave and does not guarantee its workers paid vacation,” Clockify added.

European countries mandate at least 20 days of paid vacation per year for full-time employees. Spain, Austria and France offer 25-30, according The Washington Post. Australia requires four weeks’ leave for workers who work 12 consecutive months. New Zealanders — full- and part-time — accrue four weeks’ annual paid leave each year. Canadian and Japanese workers get at least 10 paid days off.

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“In the absence of government standards, 23% of Americans have no paid vacation and no paid holidays,” Clockify reported. According to government survey data, the average U.S. worker receives only about 10 days of paid vacation and about 6 paid holidays per year — less than the minimum legal standard set in the rest of the world’s rich economies.

This is, of course, set against a backdrop of the world’s largest, richest and currently most efficient economy at producing increases in GDP per hours worked. 

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So the moral of the story? U.S. workers work longer and produce more than their international counterparts, but in the end, receive fewer benefits.

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About the Author

Georgina Tzanetos is a former financial advisor who studied post-industrial capitalist structures at New York University. She has eight years of experience with concentrations in asset management, portfolio management, private client banking, and investment research. Georgina has written for Investopedia and WallStreetMojo. 
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