Statutory leave entitlements across developed countries: Why US workers lose out on work–family balance


  • This paper updates a presentation made at the 15th World Congress of the International Industrial Relations Association, Sydney, 24–28 August 2009.

  • Responsibility for opinions expressed in signed articles rests solely with their authors, and publication does not constitute an endorsement by the ILO.


Using a composite index of legal provisions for annual and family leave in western Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan and the Republic of Korea, the authors rank legislative support for this aspect of work–family balance. The United States ranks last: its employers are not required to grant annual leave and employees can take no more than 12 weeks' family leave per year. The United States' comparatively low labour standards, the authors argue, may be due to the dominance of a market-based conception of employment and the assumption of equal employer–employee bargaining power, neither of which is fully shared by the other industrialized democracies.