9 holidays a year: UAE world's hardest working?

Employees in the UAE seem to be one of the hardest working in the world, as they have more working days than many other countries across the globe.

According to data from Mercer’s Worldwide Benefit and Employment Guidelines, those working in the UAE get only nine public holidays, which is the least in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region.

Mercer’s data differs slightly from previous reports. According to a previous article by Emirates 24|7, the UAE employees in the government sector get 13 holidays in 2014, while their counterparts in the private sector enjoy about 10 days off.

“Public holiday numbers are fluid so the data does change year-on-year. Countries often hold quadrennial or one-off holidays for specific cultural or religious events and some leave the final decisions to local governments,” adds a Mercer spokesperson, while explaining the difference that could be in the actual number of holidays that employees eventually enjoy.

Moreover, employees in the UAE get mandatory annual leave.

For every year of service, an employee is entitled to an annual leave of not less than two days for every month if his service is more than six months and less than one year; and a minimum of 30 calendar days annually, if his service exceeds one year.

Besides this, employees are also entitled to sick leave.

There are some other countries on the list where employees work even harder if only public holidays are taken into account.

Those in Hungary, the UK and the Netherlands put in one more day of work as compared to their UAE counterparts. They have the fewest, only 8 public holidays, as per the Mercer data.

Employees in India and Colombia have the greatest number of public holidays (18) in the world whilst Mexicans have access to the least (7).

Within Europe, Finland has the most generous provision of public holidays (15), followed by Spain (14) whereas Hungary, the UK and the Netherlands, have the fewest (8).

Austria has 12 days public holidays while Sweden, Italy, France and Denmark all provide employees with 11 public holidays.

Belgium, Luxembourg, Norway and Portugal all have 10.

Germany typically celebrates nine public holidays but this varies between states (Bundeslander) so some employees can receive up to 13 days, says the report.

And, there are varied versions of what exactly can be tagged as public holidays, leading to further ambiguity.

For example, Norway and Sweden do not count Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve as public holidays although these are treated as such by employers.

In Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), Turkey gives the greatest number of public holidays (14.5) followed by Russia (14) and Slovakia (13). The Czech Republic and Lithuania both have 12 public holidays followed by Croatia (11), Poland and Ukraine (10) and Serbia and Romania (9).

In North America, Canada provides the greatest number of public holidays (11), but this may differ with each province.

The United States Government provides 10 federal public holidays, however private employers are not obligated to allow their employees to take these days off.

Latin America is home to the highest and lowest public holiday provision of any of the countries surveyed. Colombia has the most generous number of public holidays (18) whilst Mexico has the lowest (7). Argentina and Chile have 15 public holidays with Brazil offering 12.

Within Asia Pacific, employees in India have (along with Colombia) the highest public holiday provision worldwide (18). Australia and New Zealand have fewer public holidays than the region’s average with nine and 11, respectively.

Thailand and South Korea offer 16 public holidays followed by Japan (15), Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines (all 14). Pakistan (13) is followed by Hong Kong and Taiwan (12 each).

Vietnam (10) has the lowest number of public holidays in the region below China and Singapore with 11 each.

“A smaller statutory holiday allowance provided to nationals is often offset by a more substantial provision of public holidays and vice versa, for example the Philippines has a statutory minimum holiday entitlement of five days but has 14 days of public holiday.”

“Countries want to attract investment by showing they have a productive and available workforce. Portugal, for example, has taken the drastic measure of suspending four of the country’s 14 public holidays in a bid to increase productivity and send a message to possible investors,” the report explains.