An American expat's view from the European Union on the weak American social safety net

Figures can lie and liars can figure, so in the words of Galileo maybe we shouldn't believe anything except that which our own eyes can see and if we see it, we should believe what our eyes tell us. In an American expat's view from the European Union on the weak American social safety net, this diary asks what do we believe? Do we believe a plutocrat owned media of Fox Business News, CNBC Business News and the Wall Street Journal that tell us to believe in unseen forces of the invisible hand of the free market, that things in America are getting better and that things in the great social democracies of Western Europe are getting worse, because after all they are 'socialists'.

This begs the question, do you believe the plutocrat owned business media to report the truth or do you believe the traveling and tourism industry which makes the 'socialist' European Union look like a clean civilized successful continent, wherein everyone has cradle-to-grave medical insurance, 20 to 30 days paid vacation annually, paid sick leave and paid maternity leave, on a continent ran by strong labor unions. This diary written by an American expat (with an MBA degree) busts the myths of the American plutocrat owned business media.

This diary calls on the Kos expat community around the world and those persons who have international experience to please share their first hand accounts of living under a strong social safety net that includes universal medical for all from cradle-to-grave as a core value. Also while concurrently asking as all workers in the European Union (even low wage workers) receive medical and dental benefits, 20 to 30 days paid vacation, paid sick leave, paid maternity leave, plus many paid holidays off: The excuse that American firms give is that they could go bankrupt if they provided these same benefits to American workers but in the European Union, the same companies provide these benefits and they don't go bankrupt. This clearly we can see with our own eyes. If you never want to find something out, then you will never know the truth. And just like Gallio said "“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.”

The above video is from Michael Moore's movie SiCKO (special features) entitled: What if you worked for G.E. in France? Wherein Michael Moore interviews a French G.E. employee about why GE doesn't offer the same employee benefits in America as they do in France.

Why do workers across the European Union receive 20 to 30 days (or more) of paid vacation annually?

We have all heard of the stories of American workers who only receive about half of the paid vacation as their counterparts in the European Union. Now why does that have to be so?

The U.S. government, of course, guarantees precisely zero days of paid vacation for those employed in the private sector. For those Americans not working for government agencies, then, the amount of time off they get is a matter of negotiation with their employer and, usually, the number of years at a given firm. As a result, "Americans work two weeks longer than the work-till-you-drop Japanese, and two months longer than the Germans, who sometimes receive up to 15 weeks paid vacation each year, according to the Hay Group, a human resource consulting firm. " Indeed, "The U.S. is second from the bottom with 10 days, tied with both Canada and Japan. Only Mexico, with a piddly six days, offers employees less vacation time."

Statutory minimum annual paid vacation days by country:

Austria - 25 paid vacation days
Belgium - 20 paid vacation days
Denmark - 25 paid vacation days
Finland - 20 paid vacation days
France - 25 paid vacation days
Germany - 20 paid vacation days
Greece - 20 paid vacation days
Hungary - 20 paid vacation days
Ireland - 20 paid vacation days
Italy - 20 paid vacation days
Luxembourg - 25 paid vacation days
Netherlands - 20 paid vacation days
Norway - 21 paid vacation days
Poland - 20 paid vacation days
Portugal - 22 paid vacation days
Spain - 22 paid vacation days
Sweden - 25 paid vacation days
United Kingdom - 20 paid vacation days
United States - Zero paid vacation days

When will American workers finally wake up, stand up and say we are mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore. G.E. and other American multinationals should be providing the same benefits in America as they do in France (by law) and other EU countries. It's a simple issue of social justice for the American working class in order save the American dream.

Nearly one-fourth of American workers have no paid vacation or holidays, according to a recent study from the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Economic and Policy Research, and nearly half of all private-sector workers have no paid sick days.

Regarding paid sick leave:
Why isn't there a standardized system across America that requires job protected paid sick leave, be paid to all workers by right of law just like there is in the European Union. This is in order to secure social justice in the EU for the working class. Why are there 60 million Americans who don't have any paid sick leave?

Over a year ago, the British newspaper the Daily Mail published something would be impossible for the American working class to believe, which was a high court ruling valid for the entire European Union that workers who are on paid sick leave must be allowed to accumulated paid vacation days during their sick time off. This thought is so foreign in America that it could only come from another planet in outer space, from a world far, far away where water must flow up hill. All this just because Yankee capitalism never works for the American working class who are the long standing victims of plutocratic class warfare.

Employees on long-term sick leave are still entitled to paid holiday, EU judges have said. It means that staff can take their annual leave built up while at home as soon as they return to work.

In addition, any worker who is sacked or who leaves a firm while off ill must be financially compensated for the holidays not taken.

The European Court of Justice verdict takes effect immediately and cannot be appealed against.

Read more:

Regarding Parent's Maternity Leave:

Did you know that the United States virtually speaking is the only major industrialized nation in the world that doesn't have job protected paid maternity leave by right of law? Equally ironic is the fact that American companies operating in the European Union are required by law to pay maternity leave -- while in the United States, American law requires them to pay nothing. Let's ask who does that benefit and what of kind of family values does that support for the working class in America? Why isn't this a story that the plutocrat owned media reports on everyday in America? And who does that benefit?

"Maternity leave benefits in weeks for 19 countries:

Share of leave unpaid & share of leave paid:

United Kingdom - 35 paid weeks leave & 15 weeks unpaid leave.
Norway - 20 weeks of paid leave & 5 weeks of unpaid leave.
Ireland - 15 weeks of paid leave & 10 weeks of unpaid leave.
Italy - 18 weeks of paid leave & 4 weeks of unpaid leave.
Denmark - 18 weeks of paid leave.
Finland - 12 weeks of paid leave & 5 weeks of unpaid leave.
Greece - 18 weeks of paid leave.
France - 18 weeks of paid leave.
Austria - 18 weeks of paid leave.
Netherlands - 18 weeks of paid leave.
Spain - 18 weeks of paid leave.
Switzerland - 18 weeks of paid leave.
Sweden - 12 weeks of paid leave & 2 weeks of unpaid leave.
Belgium - 12 weeks of paid leave & 3 weeks of unpaid leave.
Canada - 10 weeks of paid leave & 5 weeks of unpaid leave.
Germany - 15 weeks of paid leave.
Japan - 10 weeks of paid leave & 2 weeks of unpaid leave.
New Zealand - 5 weeks of paid leave & 6 weeks of unpaid leave.
United States - 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

[Full time equivalent of leave in weeks, as if the claimant were to receive 100% of average earnings.

Source: OECD Family database 2005/2006, International Social Security Association.

The following information can be seen from this chart at this URL:

Here is an example of how maternity leave works in Sweden in a short YouTube video. This is the type of video that American audiences almost never see. Certainly this video will never be broadcast in America. If you watch it, you will find out why.

In the European Union, your medical benefits are not linked to your job. Wouldn't it make sense to have that type of a system in America, Particularly with the high unemployment rate and all of the off shoring of jobs which part of the wholesale de-industrialization of America. This is designed to lower the standard of living of the American working class.

Unemployment compensation in the European Union:
Now imagine that even unemployed workers all across the European Union are able to keep their medical and dental for themselves and their families. Now can you imagine that system in America? Doesn't the American working class need a European style social safety net rather than 59 million Americans who are medically uninsured.

European benefits also tend to last longer. In Belgium, jobless benefits have no time limit at all. In Denmark, the state replaces up to 90% of lost wages and invests over 4% of gross domestic product every year in supporting and retraining the jobless.

Jobless benefits vary around Europe, just as they can vary state-by-state in the U.S. But in most Western European countries, the state replaces 60% to 80% of the average worker's lost salary, compared with just over half on average in the U.S., according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

This soundbite is rarely ever mentioned in the Wall Street Journal. The bottom line is the American working class are the long term victims of class warfare at the hands of the American plutocracy. The simple fact is, the American working class deserves a strong European style social safety net with universal medical at its center piece.

The Tea Party's platform is grab everything for yourself and share nothing with no one.

The assumption of risk however would dictate that it is better to have a shared risk wherein the risk pool is divided through the whole population. Therefore the individual assumption of risk becomes less.

While we can all be proud Americans, we don't have to be proud of the broken American social safety net.

PS: I'd like to announce the launch of the Kos community Global Expats group. More information please see the link below. If you're interested in joining, please send an email to

(Cross posted by author from the Daily Kos.)

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to the new design in the next 24 hours, give or take a few hours. Good of you to get in a bit ahead of that with this post including your group suggestion. I'll be there to tip and rec it in a minute because frist I have to do this:

[ed note - CM1] - Promoting this, per usual, with many thanks for sharing it here. :)

Too late to rec it at dkos. :( I tried.