The UK now has the lowest number of national public holidays of all major economies (G20 group of leading economies), with just eight public holidays compared to an average of 12 across the G20 economies, according to research by Von Essen, the leading providers of tax advisory services to international contractors.
The UK is even beaten by places that are viewed as stereotypically industrious such as Japan with 15 public holidays and China with 11.
Von Essen’s research into public holidays found that:
- European counties with an average of 11 public holidays and the US with 10 fall well below the global average of 13 (see table)
- Developed economies have an average of 12 national public holidays less than emerging markets such as Brazil or China which had an average of 14.
- Argentina is the country with the highest number of national public holidays, with 18.
According to the research, no new permanent public holidays have been introduced in the UK since the 1970s. The last public holiday to be introduced in the UK was the May Day bank holiday, introduced in 1978.
Each bank holiday is reported to cost the UK economy £2.3bn according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research.
Lydia Marref, Partner at Von Essen, comments: “The UK may have a very low number of public holidays by international standards, but the reality is that permanent staff in the UK enjoy similar amounts of holiday to workers in other countries. Instead of having lots of national holidays on fixed dates, UK employees benefit from flexible annual leave which they can take when they want.”
Von Essen points out that for contractors, fewer public holidays is often seen as an advantage because contractors are usually unpaid during national holidays.
Says Lydia Marref: “While permanent employees in the UK may be disappointed with the low number of public holidays on offer, this is seen as an advantage by many internationally mobile contractors.”
“The large and growing workforce of international contractors in sectors like IT and finance are very proactive in managing the impact of public holidays on their income.”
“Highly remunerated, elite contractors do not necessarily have to work all year. They often choose to work in short, sharp bursts. This means that they can plan when they work and avoid working at the times of the year when national public holidays fall.”
“Some countries with very generous numbers of public holidays do not require employers to provide these days as paid holiday, and they may not all be mandatory. This makes a significant difference to the employment culture of these countries and is likely to be an important consideration for international contractors.”
The country with the most national public holidays is Argentina, with 18, followed by India and Hong Kong, with 17, and then Brazil, South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Russia with 15.
Lydia Marref adds: “The countries with the most public holidays all have a different heritage so there is really no common factor in relation to, say, religion, culture or work ethic. However, there has been a shift in some emerging markets over the last two decades to add to the number of public holidays in order to increase consumer spending.”