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Simple chart shows how much better some European countries treat citizens

A simple chart shows the complicated ways the U.S. treats workers — with little assistance

The men’s World Cup captured the globe’s attention in 2022 as teams fought for a coveted spot on the podium. Even the U.S. men’s national team saw some success, reaching the quarterfinal round after not even qualifying for the last one in 2018.

That said, the stars and stripes missed the podium. And, a new chart shows the U.S. wouldn’t win any medals for the assistance — or lack thereof — it provides to workers.

The chart, perhaps playing off of the excitement for the World Cup, uses medals to compare the U.S. to its global counterparts Germany, France, Japan, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The creator, u/aaabigwyattmann3, posted it to the antiwork subreddit.

Here’s how the U.S. stacks up against its European counterparts.

a tired man at his desk

Universal healthcare

The U.S. was the only country in the group not to provide universal healthcare. The World Health Organization defines universal healthcare as access to a full range of quality services when they want them without financial hardship. 

The U.S. has made strides since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed in 2010. A new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said that a record 35 million Americans enrolled in coverage related to the ACA in early 2022. However, it’s still not the entire country. 

Free college

Unlike some other categories on this list, the U.S. isn’t on an island to itself when it comes to free college. Japan, Canada, and the U.K. don’t offer it either. Public universities are free in Germany.

France’s tuition actually isn’t free, despite what the graphic said, but students can pay based on family income. It’s also incorrect about the U.K., which stopped offering free tuition in 1998, but students don’t have to pay upfront costs. Swedish students can go to school for free if they are studying for a post-doctoral degree.

Paid maternity leave and vacation

The United States is the only industrialized nation not to offer federal paid leave to new parents. Congress appeared close to passing it in 2021, but 12 weeks was whittled down to four weeks and then removed entirely from the Build Back Better Act after objections from West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin. The FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) provides 12 weeks of unpaid family leave and job protection to employees under specific circumstances. Compare that to Sweden, where parents get 480 days of paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child. Families with two parents can split the leave 240 days apiece.

Maternity leave is not a vacation — as anyone with a young child will tell you — but the U.S. was also an outlier in paid vacation.

Paid sick leave

The U.S. also does not guarantee sick leave to workers. Germany (up to six weeks at full pay), Sweden (typically compensated for entire time sick, with the first 14 days coming from the employer at a minimum of 80% pay), France (up to €47.43 per day),  and the U.K. (up to 28 weeks at a government-mandated minimum) all do.

Does the lack of assistance make you want to quit your job? Perhaps see about a four-day workweek? Pray you get quietly fired — or officially fired so you can collect unemployment? For what it’s worth, one report found no one took home more money per year than U.S. workers ($74,000).   

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BethAnn Mayer
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