It's A Mystery Why the European Economy is Not Growing

European economic problems must be due to the "austerity" (which means, in popular Leftist use, not growing government spending faster than the rate of inflation).  I am sure this kind of thing has nothing to do with high unemployment rates.  I would certainly be really excited to hire more employees under these conditions:

For most Europeans, almost nothing is more prized than their four to six weeks of guaranteed annual vacation leave. But it was not clear just how sacrosanct that time off was until Thursday, when Europe’s highest court ruled that workers who happened to get sick on vacation were legally entitled to take another [paid] vacation.

“The purpose of entitlement to paid annual leave is to enable the worker to rest and enjoy a period of relaxation and leisure,” the Court of Justice of the European Union, based in Luxembourg, ruled in a case involving department store workers in Spain. “The purpose of entitlement to sick leave is different, since it enables a worker to recover from an illness that has caused him to be unfit for work.


  1. a_random_guy:

    Yes, vacations in Europe are 4 to 6 weeks. Here in the US, I have never had a job where I took less than around 4 weeks off in a year. The two weeks that many people put up with is a sick joke - not enough time to really detox, certainly not enough for any sort of real travel.

    I want some time off at Christmas for family, a real vacation of 2 weeks, plus odd days here and there. Guess what, if you have any sort of professional position, this isn't difficult to arrange. If you have a contract with only two weeks of paid vacation, plan your finances so that you can take a couple of additional weeks unpaid. Work with your employer - when is "slow season"? Life is not work, work is not your life.

    If anything, employers ought to be supportive - happier employees do better work.

    On the specific topic of the post: I usually agree with our host, but not here. Employees are entitled to sick leave. If an employee is seriously ill (not a summer cold, but pneumonia), this should count a sick leave rather than vacation. Any employer who doesn't see it this way is a cold-hearted SOB.

  2. Ian Random:

    Can you imagine how that kills projects? You need this by when? Oh, wait I'll be gone for the entire project.

  3. a_random_guy:

    Why should it kill a project? You have employee vacations, holidays, etc. already. In many places, you also have the odd employee working 60% or 80%. Here's a clue: it's called "planning".

  4. DoctorT:


    You aren't getting it. The judge ruled that if an employee gets sick during his planned 6 week vacation, he can take another paid vacation later in the year to make up for the sick days. I predict that the reported prevalence of traveler's diarrhea will skyrocket among Europeans on vacation. (I wonder if seasickness will count towards sick days.)

  5. jdt:

    I am fortunate enough to earn sick leave and annual leave at my job so if I were to get sick while on vacation I suppose I could call into work and ask them to charge that day to sick leave instead of annual. I don't really see the point, though, as instead I could just use that sick time later to "rest and enjoy a period of relaxation and leisure." I guess it only matters if sick leave is some unlimited pool to draw from, in which case workers could pretend to be sick while on vacation to extend vacations.

    I guess the part of this that would really turn me off would be having a Court of Justice in Luxembourg determining my time off instead of me negotiating it with my employer myself. Also I wonder what else this Court of Justice gets involved in. Call me paranoid.

  6. Dan in Gilbert:

    Perfect example of liberal, socialist "entitlement" mentality. No one should be "entitled" to any vacation days or sick days (by order of a government or court). It should be dictated by the free markets and your negotiations with your employer. In the case of this court ruling, they are not referring to being able to switch your vacation to sick days. It's that you are entitled to REPLACE, one for one, all the days you were sick with an equal number of vacation days, irrespective of sick days you may or may not have saved up. Its no wonder the US is so much more productive and entreprenurial. European way of doing business encourages laziness and a "what's in it for me" mentality. Just hideous.

  7. Ted Rado:

    The European idea of hard work is cerainly different than ours. I used to visit Europe on business many years ago. The first time, after I arrived, I asked if I should report to their office at 8:00 AM. I was told "no, 9 or 1o would be fine". Upon arrival, there was a half out of "bon jour, monsieur" etc. after which we got down to business. At noon we went to a VERY heavy lunch with wine, brandy,etc. Afterward (now about 2 PM, drowsy from food and drink) we worked until 6. Thus, a short work day.

    I was invited to a Belgian engineer's home for dinner. Instead of the wife preparing the meal, they had a woman in a maid's costume prepare and serve dinner. During the conversation, I mentioned that I mowed my own yard, painted the trim on my house, and did numerous chores and repairs. The were appalled that an engineer would stoop to such menial work!

    If you looked out of the hotel window at 7 AM, there was hardly any traffic, as compared to the hustle and bustle in the US.

    Bottom line: The Europeans enjoy their laid back lifestyle, and professionals like acting like lords and ladies. They pay for this in a lower standard of living. Apparently they feel it is worth it. To each his own.

  8. me:

    My experience is slightly differently: you arrive at work at 9, work super-focused (no lunches, idle chit-chat, online shopping, browsing) and at 4pm that's it. 1pm on Fridays.
    The economy in question is the workhorse of Europe and insanely efficient at everything it undertakes.

    The problems in Europe are mostly not caused by too much of a slacker attitude or overbearing entitlements (there are many problems with the latter, but they will manifest severely for the first time in a few years). They have much more to do with the consequences of a liquidity bubble overinflating specific sectors of the economy and the tensions between the approaches to managing debt in different cultures of the EU.

  9. John Moore:

    When we installed a software system in Paris in 1991, the customer had to hire a guard to watch us because we worked later than closing time (5PM or something like that) and it was a high security facility. And, of course, there were the two hour lunches with plenty of wine.

    Getting things fixed was always fun - like going to DMV for anything that happened - on their hours (we were putting in a 24hr/7day-per-week system.

    On the other hand, they really know how to make the best food in the world, and how to enjoy it.

    But doing business there - awful.

  10. Not Sure:

    “The purpose of entitlement to paid annual leave is to enable the worker to rest and enjoy a period of relaxation and leisure,” the Court of Justice of the European Union, based in Luxembourg, ruled in a case involving department store workers in Spain. “The purpose of entitlement to sick leave is different, since it enables a worker to recover from an illness that has caused him to be unfit for work."

    Seems like the same argument could be used when one is sick on the weekend. Do workers get extra weekdays off for that?

  11. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States:

    >>>> Seems like the same argument could be used when one is sick on the weekend. Do workers get extra weekdays off for that?

    That's the next lawsuit...

    In Europe, it's rather clear that the idea of actually earning your living is subordinate to your doing whatever you damnwell please during the part you're not working.

    @me -- you conveniently left out what general part of Europe you were noting this somewhat different work ethic in. I'll lay odds it wasn't the same part as John or Ted. Even Europe has "flavors".

  12. Mesa Econoguy:

    Clearly, the EU needs to rule this entitlement in arrears, for at least the past century (industrial revolution, etc.), so that descendants of those entitled to previous vacations, and forced to labor under later-determined intolerable conditions, may collect on this.

    Spain, specifically, will benefit due to their 3000% unemployment rate, which can now be shifted to ex post "vacation."

  13. Ted Rado:

    If you think western Europe is bad in terms of the work ethic, you should have visited eastern Europe during communist days. Since everyone was a state employee, and there was no prospect of accumulating wealth, no one worked harder than necessary to stay out of the gulag. I wish those who have socialist-communist leanings could have seen what it was like. The free enterprise system sure looks magnificent in comparison. There is a reward for study and diligence, and a penalty for slackers.

    Unfortunately, there are many who feel that those who have applied themselves and done well should have their rewards taken away and given to those who have not. We all need the carrot and the stick.

    If a society decides they will accept a lower standard of living and have more liesure time, that's their business. I heard many in Europe (when they found out that I was an American), say that all we have is money. They have the culture. There is a lot of envy there. If they want what we have, work more and vacation less. The Germans apparently do. In Japan, the same thing. Lots of hustle and bustle and no two-hour, three martini lunches.

  14. Not Sure:

    “The purpose of entitlement to sick leave is different, since it enables a worker to recover from an illness that has caused him to be unfit for work.”

    Are employers allowed, in any way, to recover from an employee who is found to be unfit for work?

    Didn't think so.

  15. a_random_guy:

    "Are employers allowed, in any way, to recover from an employee who is found to be unfit for work?"

    Huh? What planet do you live on? If an employee is ill, any normal employment contract allows a certain amount of sick leave. If the employee becomes unfit for work in the long-term, they will be fired. What more do you want?

    In Europe, it’s rather clear that the idea of actually earning your living is subordinate to your doing whatever you damnwell please during the part you’re not working.

    Makes sense to me. Sure, you ought to enjoy your job, but there are more important things out there. Work should not be your life.

  16. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States:

    >>> If the employee becomes unfit for work in the long-term, they will be fired.

    This is Europe we're talking about dude. Are you sure of that? There are lots of union situations here in AMERICA where that's almost impossible.

    Ex. Teachers have to pretty much be found with the small, underwearless child on their naked LAP to get outright fired, instead of moved to a closet somewhere doing paperwork and continuing to get paid.

    >>> Makes sense to me. Sure, you ought to enjoy your job, but there are more important things out there. Work should not be your life.

    This attitude is fine. The notion that your employer owes you the life you want that you attach to it is rather bogus. Why should S/HE be your slave?


    By what right do you demand that your employer give you things you haven't earned?

    In reality, there is a concept for this -- "paid leave" -- which means do what you want with it -- call in sick, go off on a holiday, whatever. You get 'x' number of days per year, and that's it. What you do with them is your own choice.

    I do, however, have news for you -- the people who make six figures? They tend to work far more than 40-50 hours per week, and take vacations -- if they do at all -- on spurts that align with time between projects -- they schedule their vacations so as to not interfere with the work.

    So don't be expecting a six-figure job, and don't be whining about someone ELSE getting six figures for busting their ass. They worked for it, you didn't. And that's fine. It's this "I want what he's getting AND I want the lifestyle **I** want" crap that's massively bogus.

  17. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States:

    >>> By what right do you demand that your employer give you things you haven’t earned?

    And in case you were about to challenge this -- if you and your employer negotiate this as a part of your contract, then yes, you've earned it.

    If you're getting it by judicial or legislative FIAT then, no, you haven't earned it. You got together with a bunch of other people and got them to make the rules so that you get to beat up on your employer and there's nothing S/He can do about it.

    Can they say "No, I'm not willing to give you that"?

    No, they can't. So it's being forced upon them. That's not earned, that's stolen, no matter how closely it's followed the legal forms.

  18. morganovich:

    a random guy-

    spoken like a career employee. try actually starting and running a business sometime. you may wind up with a real shock.

    as i got bupkis pointed out, that's a disturbingly entitled attitude.

    why should your employer be legally forced to give you what you do not earn? and how could it possibly not affect the rest of your pay? can you really think that employers will pay as much for 46 weeks of work as they do for 50?

  19. Not Sure:

    "Huh? What planet do you live on?"

    The one that IGotBupkis is posting from. What one do *you* live on? The one where employers are obligated to provide you with the things you think you should have, and that they have no say about?

    Looks like it to me.

  20. a_random_guy:

    @morganovich: I did run my own business for several years; decided I disliked doing nothing but marketing, management and customer relations all day. So I sold the business and went back to being an employee. Been there, done that, it's not for everyone.

    I never said anything about paying 50 weeks of salary for 46 weeks of work. You made that up. However, if an employee wants 6 weeks of vacation, and the employer is willing, why not have a contract for 46 weeks of salary distributed over 12 months? Or at least agreeing that the employee will occasionally be allowed to take unpaid leave? That is what I wrote above.

    There is nothing magical about the 2 weeks most (US) employees have. In fact, as I said above, I consider 2 weeks to be stupid - it is simply too little. Work should not be your life - if that is an "entitled" attitude, so be it. I intend to know what my kids look like.

  21. Hasdrubal:

    @Ian Random: It doesn't kill projects because that month long vacation isn't discretionary, EVERYONE takes vacation at the same time. They basically shut the continent down in August, aside from tourist places. Orders aren't placed and deliveries aren't made because your customers aren't buying and your vendors aren't selling, projects are scheduled as if August doesn't exist. It would be a disaster for scheduling if people regularly took a month off at will, but this is an economy-wide, month long bank holiday.

  22. mark2:

    I have worked for some companies that have comp time - they give you 2 - 3 weeks vacation and an additional 6 - 7 days to cover things like illness, and alternate holidays. I liked the system. Never had to feel guilty about taking a day off from work (when I get sick, I always dread calling in - do I sound sick enough?)

  23. ParatrooperJJ:

    It's pretty standard in US public union contracts also.

  24. morganovich:

    a random guy-

    you seem to be missing the thrust of the issue here. let's try again.

    the entitled part of your attitude is not wanting 6 weeks of vacation. you are free to ask for and want whatever you want. maybe you can get it, maybe you cannot, but so long as it is the result of a mutually agreed contract between two willing parties, hey, it's all good.

    where it slides into entitlement is when the government uses coercion to force your employer to give it to you. in your first comment you describe that employers "ought" to do. they ought to do what they think is important. you may have a view and so may they. but using the heavy hand of government regulation to make sure they have to see it your way is where the trouble starts. this means an employer may no longer express his preferences and that someone else who would be willing to do the job with fewer vacation days cannot compete with you for it on that basis.

    if taking away the rights of a would be employer and a would be competitor for a position is not entitled, then i don't know what is.

    and a contract for 46 weeks of salary is NOT desirable in many cases. i would not hire anyone on that basis. we need too much continuity and you still have to pay benefits. you wind up with 10% more employees that way.

    mutual agreement is fine. you ought to be free to ask for money or vacation or a corner office or whatever matters to you. however, someone else must be free to ask for less and employers must be free to offer less as well, else you are wielding coercive force in an entitled and predatory manner.

    that's the issue with the european system you seem to champion.

    you make like it, but others have preferences too.

    also: from your description it sounds like i was correct in describing you as a true employee. you gravitated back to where you belong. but just like i said above, it's not for everyone. people who DO chose to behave otherwise must be free to do so, not forced by law to accept your preferences. that is not a free society.

  25. Nick:

    Maybe I'm just old fashioned.

    When I grew up, I was taught to believe in "an honest day's work for an honest day's pay".

    That way, at the end of the day, my employer doesn't have to thank me, and I don't have to thank him.

    I can understand negotiated salary and negotiated time off with pay, but I can't understand the mindset that an employer "owes" you whatever time you need to take care of your own health or personal issues.

  26. NormD:

    What got me was not the dozens of holidays or even the 4-6week of vacations...

    It was "bridge days".

    If a holiday ever occurred on a Tuesday or Thursday everyone took the Monday or Friday as a "bridge day".

    Whats a "bridge day" you ask? Its a normal workday only no one shows up for work. They don't take vacation, they just don't show up.

    I spent two such days wondering around a mostly empty factory. When I planned my visit I did ask if anyone was on vacation. Nope. We are all working. Except they are not there.



    Clearly, 6 (or even 8!) weeks of time off of your job every year is a basic humanitarian issue. Because really, getting 29% of every week off of work for the weekend is simply not sufficient to give people that aren't interested in, you know, actually providing value for their boss the quality of life that they feel that they deserve. Add in that most jobs ask for a whopping 33% of the hours in the remaining 71% of the week and, hey, you must be able to see that jobs are an insult to the people slaving away. Pfft.

  28. IGotBupkis, Purveyor of Fine Cynicism Since 2008:

    >>> Orders aren’t placed and deliveries aren’t made because your customers aren’t buying and your vendors aren’t selling, projects are scheduled as if August doesn’t exist.

    And the problem here, of course, is that August DOES exist. Resources are consumed, wear and tear on assets still accumulates, and all the while, nothing is being produced to counter that.

    Equally critically, there are always things in demand. Suppose you're on vacation and need your car fixed, but all the mechanics -- are they off on leave, too? "I'm using public transport!!"... Well, buses, trains break down as well. What then, grasshoppa?

    Life goes on, 60/24/365.25...

    And this is why US productivity remains far greater than Europe's.

    I would say that the European system isn't an awful approach to a bad idea, but I would argue that at the least, a rotating system of anticipated leave would soften that problem -- if, say, one third of the employees took leave in March, one third in August, and one third in December, that would probable be more sensible. Take your leave during the time of year you'd like, as much as possible. Find some method for resolving conflicts (worst case scenario it's no worse than it was before, where you took your time off whether it was convenient or appropriate to your own life's goals... Me, I love snow skiing. WtF good is a forced vacation in August going to do me?)

    Not because of the people being more competent as a whole, but because of the difference in work ethic.

    America has this kind of unique quality as a people. Excluding two groups -- both of whom I'll point out don't really have a history of doing all that well in America -- ALL Americans are descended from "go-getters" -- hard workers and risk-takers -- aggressive personalities all.

    All of our (yes, I'm American) ancestors are here because they looked around them and saw The Way Things Were. They said "This sucks. I'm going somewhere else to see if it can be better." -- and they didn't just talk about doing it, they did it... and they also had the smarts and, yes, the luck, to choose America rather than, say, Poland (not to suggest any issues with Poles, mind you). They risked it all and left everyone and everything they knew behind so as to have a chance to Get Ahead and to provide more for themselves and their progeny.

    Now note the two groups that don't function all that well in the system -- Native Amerinds, who were already here, and the descendants of African Slaves (yes, blacks), whose ancestors didn't choose to come here but got shanghaied. Neither one was selected for aggressive, risk-taking behavior and making smart choices to succeed. I'd argue that one consider this when one looks at the difference between most Asians, who were discriminated almost as much as blacks (segregation from whites was common, and certainly any Asian who attempted to associate sexually with any middle-upper-class white woman was taking a big risk)


    Mark2 -- yeah, comp time seems like a good idea as opposed to "specialized" time.

  29. chuck martel:

    Everybody wants a job (income) but nobody wants to show up for work. It's that simple.