10 International Work Benefits Americans Wish They Had


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Perks such as health care, retirement plans, paid vacation, and paid parental leave are benefits some U.S. employers offer to lure quality talent. In much of the world, though, workers expect these "extras" as guaranteed rights and enjoy benefits most Americans can only dream of having.
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In the United States, the five-day, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 40-hour workweek is standard. In the Netherlands, it's a four-day workweek and around 29 hours of toil for much of the country's population. In Denmark and Norway, the average is 33 hours. Irish employees work an average 34 hours a week.
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Most Americans have little or no money saved for retirement. In much of the world, however, jobs come with lucrative pensions all but guaranteeing secure retirements. Denmark's is considered the best -- sustainable, with good benefits, and given high marks for integrity. The Netherlands follows with a semi-mandatory, flat-rate system based on lifetime earning averages.
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America is one of just nine countries that require no paid maternity leave, and the others are small, poor nations. Every European Union country is required to offer at least 14 weeks of maternity leave. In Great Britain, new mothers can get a full 52 weeks. In Bulgaria, mothers get more than 400 days at nearly full salary.
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Plenty of countries offer some paid leave not just for new mothers, but for recent or expecting fathers as well. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found paternity leave in 31 out of 41 industrialized nations. Japan gives 30 weeks to new fathers; South Korea gives about 16 weeks.
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Just 12 percent of Americans get family leave to care for children 8 years old and under, or for other family members, according to the Center for American Progress. France and Germany offer three full years, although not all of it is paid; Nordic countries offer less time off, but all of it is compensated.
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Paid time off, or sick leave, is not guaranteed to U.S. workers, but comes with every job in most of the world's wealthy countries. Workers enjoy the most generous paid sick leave benefits in Denmark, which offers up to 104 weeks off at 90 percent salary. Norway gives up to 52 weeks of sick leave at full wages, paid for a few weeks by an employer, then by the government.
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In America, the average worker gets 10 days of paid vacation per year. Workers in the EU get 20 days, or four weeks -- not counting bank holidays. Denmark, France, and Sweden give full-time workers 25 days, or five weeks, every year. Finland offers 40 days of paid vacation annually.
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In the United States, unemployment pay rates are determined by states, and usually equal about 40 percent to 50 percent of salary for 26 weeks. In Denmark, workers get 90 percent of their prior earnings for up to two years. In France, workers under 50 can claim benefits for two years, and workers 50 and older can claim them for three.
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One key component of work/life balance is flexible scheduling and time spent out of the office. At most, a quarter of the U.S. workforce gets to telecommute, but at least 80 percent would like to, according to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics. In India, more than half of the country's employees work from home. In Mexico, 30 percent are telecommuters.
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In America, a disability can lead quickly to poverty. That's not the case in much of the world. In Austria, Belgium, Germany, and Luxembourg, for example, employers pay full salary for six weeks to employees who become ill or suffer a disability. After that, health insurance pays -- in Germany, for 70 percent of salary for up to 78 weeks over three years. Norway guarantees disability pay as a universal right, and gives permanent benefits at two-thirds of a worker's salary in the years before the disability struck.
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One place where American employers shine is wellness programs. More than half of all North American workers have access to programs designed to curb ailments such as stress, smoking, obesity, and hypertension. Just 23 percent of European employees can say the same. In Latin America, it's 5 percent, and just 1 percent in Africa.