Premier Christy Clark is promising British Columbians a new public holiday, but B.C. and the rest of Canada remain behind virtually all of the developed world when it comes to paid days off.

When B.C.'s first official Family Day rolls around in February 2013, the province will join Saskatchewan with 10 statutory holidays, the most public holidays in Canada.

Ontario has nine official holidays but the first Monday in August is generally considered a statutory holiday, even though it is not officially on the books.

According to a study by the U.K.-based consultants Mercer, Canada ranks very poorly in global holiday rankings.

But the study points out that it is also important to consider the minimum number of statutory vacation days each full-time employee is entitled to.

  • Most public holidays per year: Japan and India with 16 days.
  • Fewest public holidays per year: China with 10 and Canada with nine or 10 depending on the province.
  • Most days of statutory vacation: Finland, Brazil and France with 30 days a year, but that includes mandated weekends during the month-long vacation.
  • Fewest statutory vacation days: U.S. with zero mandatory vacation days, followed by China and Canada with 10 days per year.
  • Most total time off per year: Brazil and Lithuania with 41 mandatory days off each year for full-time workers.
  • Least total mandatory time off per year: U.S. with 10 days, followed by Ontario with 19 and China with 21.
  • Mandatory total time off per year for most Canadians: 19 days per year (20 in Saskatchewan and B.C. in 2013)

Costs to the economy

Laura Jones with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business says an extra public holiday costs a small business with five employees an average of $1,135 in wages alone.

Phil Hochstein, the President of the Independent Businesses and Contractors of B.C., says that is too much.

"We're in a fragile economy now ... the world around us is in much difficulty," he said following the announcement of Family Day on Monday.

But Dalhousie economics professor Lars Osberg, who recently co-wrote a study on the impact of public holidays on German employees, says the benefits far outweigh the costs. 

"Public holidays enable you to reconnect with people ... to build back those connections that enable you to have a satisfying social life," he says.

Osberg disputes the idea that public holidays decrease productivity.