New Zealander Baffled by U.S. Work Culture Supported

The internet is weighing in on a viral post asking “Are Americans OK?” regarding the country’s work culture.

The post is found on the popular Reddit forum r/antiwork. The original poster (OP), u/fantails-dragonflies, has earned over 44,200 upvotes and 11,200 comments for sharing their confusion.

“I live in New Zealand, and while it’s not perfect we have a minimum wage of $21.40 per hour, 4 weeks annual leave, 12 public holidays & 10 sick leave days per year mandated by law. We still have labor shortages and bad employers but All workers have rights and no one can be fired without cause (after 90 days). The posts here are enough to give me nightmares,” u/fantails-dragonflies wrote.

Minimum wage in the United States is at $7.25 an hour federally—though many states and even some cities have passed laws raising the minimum wage in their jurisdictions. The figure cited by u/fantails-dragonflies, NZ$21.40 per hour, applies to adult workers in the country, and works out to $13.53 per hour in American currency.

This would put New Zealand near the top of countries with the highest minimum wage, according to a chart by Statista. Though New Zealand isn’t on the list, Australia tops the chart with a minimum wage of the equivalent of $12.60 in American currency, based on rates in 2019. The US was ninth on the list, out of 12 countries. France, Germany and the Netherlands followed Australia, with the US, Israel, Turkey and Russia at the bottom of the list.

A Reddit post asking “Are Americans OK?” led to a conversation comparing the US regulations for workers to those in other countries.
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As for vacation time, the average is 10 days a year—or two work weeks—according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but there is no federal minimum number of vacation days—or paid public holidays for that matter. Andorra offers the highest amount of paid vacation days, 31, according to a Wikipedia list of minimum annual leave by country.

Taking the figure of 10 days on average in America, there are 157 countries on Wikipedia’s list that offer more paid vacation days. Another 24 countries offer 10 days paid vacation, while 17 countries, including Mexico, Thailand and the Philippines, offer fewer than 10 days of paid vacation—with seven countries, including the US, requiring no days off at all.

When it comes to paid public holidays, Iran and Cambodia both top the list with 27. Again, the US has no legal requirement, but on average, companies offer 8 public holidays per year. Using the average as a baseline, 158 other countries offer more paid holidays, with only the Netherlands also offering 8 paid holidays.

Looking at sick leave, the US again has no federal requirement for companies to offer sick leave, though the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that on average, American workers were given 7 days a year of sick leave. Laws around sick leave are more complex than the others—however, according to payroll company IRIS FMP, 145 countries offer paid sick leave; of those, 127 offer at least a week per year.

A number of Redditors chimed in on their feelings about the OP’s question.

“No,’ u/What_Is_The_Meaning wrote in the top-rated comment, earning 22,900 upvotes for their two-letter post.

“Worst part is the bulk of us know and hate that we are not ok, yet any real protest on the please fix it side risks ‘oops, all police violence’ brand cereal,” u/Fenrunner wrote. “If all 3 in my house caught covid, we would be unpaid and homeless. Its kinda terrifying.”

“About 1% are f**king peachy,” u/Flat-House5529 wrote. “About another 10% are doing well enough to be happy. The rest are just straight f**ked. Problem is about 80% of this last group just don’t realize it yet.”

“No. I’m a CIO. It took me 15 years to earn 5 weeks leave – this includes sick time and is the cap of what we can earn,” u/eviljason wrote. “I am now looking for work and most places are offering 1 or 2 weeks paid time off – again, this includes vacation and sick. I can be fired at anytime if I don’t kiss the right a**es. I can be laid off at anytime and receive 7 weeks pay but no benefits. I regularly work 12 hour days and pull up to 20 hours on occasion.”

“This thread is so embarassing – from a fellow New Zealander. We’re not all such gloat-y a**holes. I assure you no one on minimum wage in NZ is living a pleasant life. Living costs are f**king INSANE. Y’all would not believe our costs of groceries and housing compared to our earning. I’m on a pretty darn good salary and like hell can i ever afford a house,” u/taro_milk_tea_tw wrote.