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August In Europe: A Continent On Vacation

One thing I know very well is that Americans simply don’t take proper vacations. In Europe, I think the other extreme may well be true! For me, August is pretty much a write off. Europe is on vacation and that is all there is to it. In my 20-years living in Texas, I rarely had more than a long weekend off. That was just the way it was and as time went by I got used to it. I got into American Football, Baseball, Hockey and Basketball as well while living there. Now I am back in Europe, my interest in those sports has waned dramatically in favor of what we call football – soccer. I have also learned to ‘put up’ with elongated summer holidays again and routinely disappear for 2-3 weeks along with the rest of the continent sometime in July or August.

Just to give you an idea how bad vacation time is here, a couple of weeks ago, I wrote a personal email to 25 end user contacts asking them to take our current survey. It took me an hour or so to dig out the email addresses and so on. Within 5 minutes of sending, I received 24 automated replies. “On annual leave – back August 2xth” they all read. I do believe that France during August is empty except for tourists! Still, it’s a good time for thinking, catching up, strategizing and so on.

I do wonder though, what impact summer vacations have on commodity trading in Europe? Does anyone have any statistics on trade volumes in August?

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And here is intriguing factoid to leave you all with from an article on USA Today……

“The United States is the only developed country in the world without a single legally required paid vacation day or holiday. By law, every country in theEuropean Union has at least four work weeks of paid vacation.

Austria, which guarantees workers the most time off, has a legal minimum of 22 paid vacation days and 13 paid holidays each year. The average private sector U.S. worker receives 16 paid vacation days and holidays. One in four Americans does not have a single paid day off. Based on a report released by the Center for Economic Policy and Research (CEPR), 24/7 Wall St. identified the countries where workers get at least 30 days off a year.

Several nations providing workers with a great deal of time off can afford to be generous. Germany, where the economy remains strong, had an unemployment rate of just 5.5% in 2012. Similarly, New Zealand’s unemployment rate was just 6.9% last year. Both are well below the 8.0% Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development(OECD) unemployment rate, as well as the 8.1% rate in the United States.”

And do you think that all that paid vacation impacts productivity? Well, according to the same article – it does not.

“Because time-off is time not spent productively working, it would seem to be an expense that countries with struggling economies cannot afford. To make matters worse, “workers who have vacation and paid holidays also tend to have much higher levels of other benefits such as health insurance and retirement plans,” said John Schmitt, senior economist at Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR). Of the eight nations requiring workers receive 30 days off a year, only New Zealand’s government spent proportionally less than the U.S.’s 40.3% of GDP, while four nations spent more than 50% of GDP.

But experts consulted by 24/7 Wall St. expressed doubt that the overall effect of extra time off on the economy is negative. Schmitt told 24/7 Wall St. “paid vacation and holidays don’t appear to have any meaningful impact on macroeconomic outcomes.” Pascal Marianna, a labor markets statistician at the OECD, noted that France and Germany had a similar number of vacation days, but very different economies. While Germany’s economy continues to do well, France is mired in a recession.

Because the United States is the second-most productive developed country as measured by GDP per capita and has no mandatory vacation time, some might argue that vacation reduces productivity. However, in another measure of labor productivity — GDP per hour worked — the U.S. was only marginally better than Germany and France, both developed countries that guarantee among the most vacation time. Of course, it is worth noting that the average U.S. employee also clocks 20% more hours per worker than those in Germany or France.”

I guess you get used to anything… soccer and long vacations included!