Vacation days: the best part of your benefits package (as long as you’re unemployed).
Memorial Day weekend usually signals the beginning of summer vacation—but this summer is unlikely to be a lazy one for the American working man (or woman, though women lost fewer jobs than men in the recession of 2008-2009). Depending on which side of the unemployment line you fall on, you’re either overworked, or you have more “vacation” days than you know what to do with.
According to the Corporate Leadership Council, the average “job footprint,” or the work that falls under one person’s job description, has shot up by one-third since the beginning of the recession in 2008. But you don’t really need the Corporate Leadership Council to tell you that the workers who still have their jobs are being squeezed. Anecdotal evidence is everywhere.
“Since the crash in 2008, my workload has tripled,” says an investment bank employee in Boston. “There are two openings in my group, but management won’t fill them—why hire two more people when you can just turn the screws on the eight you’ve got.”
Historically speaking, this is to be expected. As unemployment spikes, so does productivity—employers tighten their belts, and the employee gets squeezed.
On Thursday, revised productivity numbers will be released for the first quarter of 2010, and economists expect that productivity will decrease a bit as the economy adds jobs. But the average worker is unlikely to feel relief anytime soon.
According to that same Boston bank employee, the most consistent message he’s heard from management over the past three years has been, essentially, “you better behave.” Not surprisingly, employees are happy to have jobs at all. And now doesn’t seem like a great time to rock the boat.
But rocking the boat is Alan Grayson’s specialty. In response to the squeezing of the American worker, CBS News reports that firebrand congressman Alan Grayson (D-Fla) is floating the idea of requiring U.S. employers to guarantee one week of paid vacation a year. Of the world’s thirty-three richest countries, the United States is the only one that doesn’t legally require paid vacation.
Maybe that’s the real reason Americans hate the French (or, “cheese eating surrender monkeys,” if you must)—we’re just jealous of their whopping thirty paid vacation days a year.
“We lead the world in science. We lead the world in innovation. I don’t think we need to lead the world in people who can’t take a vacation,” Grayson said.
Sounds good, but American employers will likely fight back on this one. They have a compelling graph of their own.