Aussies are taking less time off work and are even more holiday deprived this year than they were in 2010
Aussies are taking less time off work and are even more holiday deprived this year than they were in 2010 ©iStockphoto/soupstock

Rise of the holiday-deprived

UNCERTAIN economic times and tightened purse strings are resulting in Australian workers being reluctant to take all of their holiday leave.

According to the latest annual global Vacation Deprivation survey from Expedia, Aussies are taking less time off work and are even more holiday deprived this year than they were in 2010.

While the Australian adult workforce is entitled to an average of 20 annual leave days per year, Aussie workers are waving goodbye to five days of leave - a whole working week's worth of holiday. These results indicate that Australians are working harder than ever, taking 1.5 days less than they did last year - an alarming finding given one in 10 Aussies report they work over 50 hours per week. 

Medibank Health Solutions director of psychology service Dr Peter Cottonsaid: "Australians have a staggering 118 million days of untaken leave. Not taking leave can often lead to increased stress levels both in professional and personal life. However, taking regular holidays is essential to maintaining a healthy work/life balance. 

"Employees who don't take annual leave can often display higher levels of depression or anxiety-related stress among other symptoms, compared with those who do take holidays. Even taking short breaks for just a few days can lead to an improvement in a person's mental, emotional and physical wellbeing."

Further reinforcing the cautious sentiment, almost a third (31 per cent) of all Australian workers cited finances as the main reason behind not taking the holidays they are entitled to, compared with the global average of twenty-two percent (22 per cent). Not surprisingly, the nation most concerned with being able to afford a holiday is the US (34 per cent).

Separation anxiety from work (14 per cent), negative reactions from employers (13 per cent) and getting paid for not taking holidays (nine per cent) were among the most common reasons Aussies decided not to take all of their entitled leave.

Economic uncertainty is also resulting in Australians worrying about their job security. A third (33 per cent) of all Aussie workers admitted to cancelling or postponing holiday plans because of work. This is no doubt a result of almost one in four (26 per cent) Australian workers believing their employers are unsupportive of annual leave.

Adding to the argument that Australia isn't the laid back nation it's perceived to be,  Australia once again ranked in the top five most holiday deprived nations among the 20 countries surveyed.

Sharing the stage with Australia for the most holiday deprived nations was Japan (five days), in first place for the third year in a row, South Korea (seven days), US (12 days), Mexico and Singapore (14 days), and equal fifth with Australia was Canada (15 days).

For the fifth year running, France ranked as the world's most holiday-rich nation, despite annual leave days dropping from 37.5 to 30 days. The French made sure they left no leave day untaken with all 30 days of entitled leave put to good use.

Aussies can't switch off

Also of concern is that even while on holiday, Australian workers seem to be incapable of switching off from work and getting into true holiday mode with over a fifth (22 per cent) reporting they regularly check-in to work while on a break.  At the other end of the spectrum are Danish workers, with over half (53 per cent) reporting they happily leave work behind, never checking work voicemails or emails while holidaying.

"We all need to be able to separate ourselves from work while on holidays. It's best to avoid checking emails and calling to 'check-in' at the office so that you can get the distance needed to be able to return to work relaxed and recharged," said Dr Peter Cotton.

Most holiday-deprived nations



Annual leave days taken





South Korea






Mexico & Singapore



Australia & Canada


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