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Days Off Can Help an Economy

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Days Off Can Help an Economy

Who wouldn't like more vacation? From sunning yourself on a Hawaiian beach to enjoying a meal on Venice's Piazza San Marco, summer is the time to recharge your batteries and forget about the mountain of e-mails waiting when you get back to the office. But which countries have the best annual vacation allowance? And how does that compare to their overall global competitiveness and other key economic indicators? Using data from consulting firm Mercer, along with national statistics and figures from the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development, the International Labor Organization, and the World Economic Forum, the conclusions are surprising. Countries with long vacations don't necessarily suffer from lower productivity or per capita wealth. Indeed, although the U.S. ranks No. 1 on the World Economic Forum’s list of most competitive countries, in other measures of economic success, such as gross domestic product per hours worked, it lags countries with far more generous vacation policies such as France.

Click on the slide show to see which countries worldwide have the longest—and shortest—average vacations and how they rank on other indicators.

• Average vacation days data are provided by Mercer's 2009 Worldwide Benefits & Employment Guidelines, unless otherwise noted. The figures are based on combined statutory vacation days and national bank holidays.

• Data for average weekly working hours, unemployment, and gross domestic product per hour worked as a percentage of the U.S. level are provided by the OECD, unless otherwise stated.

• Global Competitiveness Rankings come from the World Economic Forum's 2008 survey and includes such measures as macroeconomic environment, the quality of public institutions that underpin the development process, and the level of technological readiness and innovation.