Rise of the holiday-deprived

On December 01, 2011 at 02:00 PM

Expedia global survey reveals Aussie workers take less holidays every year

Australia ranked in the top five most holiday-deprived nations

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®, the world’s largest online travel company, 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. 

Dr Peter Cotton, Director of Psychology Services, Medibank Health Solutions says: “Australians have a staggering 118 million days of untaken leave[1].  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%) 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%). Not surprisingly, the nation most concerned with being able to afford a holiday is the US (34%).

Separation anxiety from work (14%), negative reactions from employers (13%) and getting paid for not taking holidays (9%) 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%) 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%) 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 twenty countries surveyed.

Sharing the stage with Australia for the most holiday deprived nations was Japan (5 days), in first place for the third year in a row, South Korea (7 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.

Amee Evans, Marketing and Communications Manager for Expedia.com.au, said: “Making time for some ‘me time’ is extremely important. Whether it’s a weekend getaway to an Australian city or an overseas trip, Expedia makes it quick and easy to book great holiday deals without spending a fortune – just what the doctor ordered.”

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%) 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%) 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



Notes to editors

About the Expedia Vacation Deprivation Study

This is the 11th year of the Expedia Vacation Deprivation survey, an annual survey which spotlights the growing trend of employed workers not taking all of their holidays. Since 2005, Expedia has expanded the survey globally to compare and contrast holiday habits internationally. In the 2011 Vacation Deprivation survey, holiday habits are analysed among employed workers in twenty countries, namely the US, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, Canada, Singapore, Japan, India, South Korea, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Ireland, and the Netherlands.

Issued on behalf of Expedia by Sefiani Communications Group

For further information, please contact:

Kelly Santos or Rod Jago

Sefiani Communications Group

Tel. +61 2 8920 0700

Email: ksantos@sefiani.com.auor rjago@sefiani.com.au

Methodology Statement

Harris Interactive® fielded the online survey on behalf of Expedia.com from September 19 - October 9, 2011 in following countries among nationwide cross-sections of the employed adult populations. Also listed with the countries are the total sample size for each country and the makeup of the target audience, either employed adults age 16+ or employed adults age 18+:

North America

United States: 520 employed adults, age 18+

Canada: 1080 employed adults, age 18+

Mexico: 411 employed adults, age 16+

South America

Argentina: 301 employed adults, age 16+

Brazil: 308 employed adults, age 16+


United Kingdom: 440 employed adults, age 18+

Germany: 402 employed adults, age 18+

France: 409 employed adults, age 18+

Italy: 400 employed adults, age 16+

Spain: 428 employed adults, age 18+

Norway: 300 employed adults, age 18+

Sweden:  300 employed adults, age 18+

Denmark:  301 employed adults, age 18+

Ireland: 301 employed adults, age 18+

Netherlands: 300 employed adults, age 16+


Japan: 300 employed adults, age 18+

India: 302 employed adults, age 16+

South Korea: 300 employed adults, age 16+

Singapore: 300 employed adults, age 16+


Australia: 400 employed adults, age 16+

Respondents for this survey will be selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. Each country was weighted using propensity scores* and/or demographic data to reflect the country’s employed adult population as a whole. Exceptions to this are Brazil, Singapore and Mexico, which were weighted to reflect the online employed adult population of each country. In India, only three regions were surveyed: Delhi (n=100), Mumbai (n=102), and Hyderabad/Chennai/Bangalore (n=100). These three regions were then weighted together to reflect their population size.

For the global 20-country total, an additional post-weight was applied to adjust for the relative size of each country’s employed adult population within the total adult population across all countries surveyed.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

*Propensity score weighting is a proprietary technique developed by Harris Interactive® which takes into account behavioraland attitudinal differences between the online and non-online populations, enabling us to weight data collected online to be representative of all adults, not only those who are just online.

[1]Tourism Australia's "No Leave, No Life" campaign

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