Americans#8217; work ethic second to none

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ah, vacation.

On the editorial pages of America’s newspapers, countless topics are addressed and debated. From political happenings to economic trends to the arbitrary, just about everything is covered.

But one thing that isn’t often talked about is, well, vacations.

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It’s really an interesting topic when it’s discovered that Americans are finding less and less time for themselves and their families. Yes, Americans are vacationing less and, in fact, not even taking all the time they have been granted or earned.

A lot is said about the American work ethic. Some believe labor unions have damaged the United States’ ability to compete in the global marketplace. Some believe the ability to fraudulently collect funds from the welfare system shows a collective disinterest in work. Others believe there are jobs available for anyone who is willing to work but that we’re just plain lazy.

Well, before anyone gets too carried away knocking the American work force, there are a few facts that should be pointed out:

— According to Braun Consulting, the United States is one of the only modern countries without vacation-time minimums mandated by law. In many European countries, workers get five weeks of vacation. Canadian and Japanese laws mandate a minimum of two weeks vacation.

—Employees in European Union countries get four weeks of paid vacation by law, while many employees in the U.S. need to work more than a year before getting the conventional two weeks vacation, which is not mandated by law.

—Estimates show that in the United States the average amount of vacation time has shrunk from more than seven days to only four days.

—Statistics show that less vacation time results in more absenteeism and more overtime.

So with those things in mind, I believe American workers need a pat on the back. Maybe the reason we loathe people who abuse the welfare system or workers’ compensation - both noble enterprises – is because fundamentally we are a nation of workers.

Hard work is a fabric of the American culture and evidence of that rests with the residue of the Industrial Revolution, which can be seen right here at home.

Stories that aren’t told often enough are the ones about ordinary people who show up for work on time, do their jobs efficiently and take pride in what they do. They live in everyone’s neighborhoods, people who make businesses go.

A lot is made of economic development and job creation, simply because those things put people to work, grow the tax base and improve people’s overall quality of life. But no matter how much economic development or job creation occurs, it would all be pointless without the American worker.

Rick Greene is the managing editor of The Ironton Tribune. He can be reached at (740) 532-1441, ext. 12, or by e-mail at