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Two people paddle a canoe on Burnaby Lake in Burnaby, B.C.


A global survey shows Canada is the only country where workers would rather have more vacation time than a modest pay raise.

Twenty per cent of Canadians picked an additional week of paid time off as their top choice for an additional workplace benefit, followed in second place by a $500 salary increase, according to a global survey of 10,400 workers in 10 countries by consulting firm Mercer.

Canada was the only country where additional time off ranked as the top choice. Workers in all other countries – including the United States, Britain, France, China and Brazil – selected a salary increase as the most preferred benefit.

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Younger workers between 25 and 44 and workers with young children were most likely to pick additional time off as their preferred benefit, while people earning under $20,000 and workers over 45 were more likely to pick a salary increase.

Mercer senior partner Brian Lindenberg said many workers worldwide selected options that have a short-term benefit over longer-term benefits like improved pension contributions. In Canada, an additional $500 employer contribution to a retirement savings plan was the third most popular option at 15 per cent.

"Canadian employees have shown that they value more time off and increased pay in the current stress-filled economic environment, which is understandable," Mr. Lindenberg said. "But there are other benefits that have the potential to create more income protection through health benefits and income replacement through retirement and savings vehicles."

Mercer said the findings suggest companies need to do more to communicate the long-term value of various benefits to employees.

The survey also asked workers about benefits that they would be most willing to purchase themselves if their companies offered them on their website or provided a discount. The differences in global choices were often related to different health care and insurance systems in various countries.

In Canada, for example, employees were most interested in automobile and homeowner insurance followed in third place by critical injury insurance, which are all normally benefits workers in Canada have to pay for themselves. Mercer said the results should be interesting to employers because many do not currently offer or facilitate group homeowner or automobile coverage.

U.S. workers chose disability and life insurance as the top benefits they'd be most willing to purchase themselves if the company offered them, while supplemental retirement income and housing allowances were most popular in China.

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Across all 10 countries in the survey, workers also expressed concerns about their preparedness for retirement. In Canada, 68 per cent said they are either "fairly" or "very" concerned about having sufficient funds available when they retire. The greatest concerns were in China, where 81 per cent of workers surveyed were concerned about their retirement incomes, while 74 per cent of American workers were worried and workers in Spain were comparatively the least concerned at 61 per cent.

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