WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Americans returning to work from summer vacation ought to feel refreshed, but probably not as refreshed as colleagues in Europe, where minimum paid leave beats that for U.S. workers with even 25 years of service. A report from the Economic Policy Institute on Wednesday noted that Americans with a quarter century of employment receive just 19.2 days of annual paid leave on average versus 20 days or more in most European countries. "Vacation is an important part of work -- a time to get away from the demands of a job, to enjoy family, and to rejuvenate. President Bush's extended vacation at his ranch in Texas reflects this need," said EPI. Bush has been enjoying a five week break on his ranch in Crawford -- a stay away from the office that is positively French in length, where legal minimum annual leave is 25 days. There is no legal minimum paid leave in the United States, although many firms grant some vacation time. EPI, citing data from the U.S. National Compensation Survey, found the average number of paid vacation days to be 8.9 after one year or work, 11 after three years and 16.2 after 10 years. Austria, Denmark, Luxembourg and Sweden all match France in the generosity of legal minimums of paid leave, although employees can rack up much more time off through length of service and compensation for overtime. This adds up to weeks in countries like France, which has a strict 35 hour work-week. In fact, length of vacation and hours worked go a long way to explain the wealth gap between the U.S. and Europe. Having the time off is one thing but being able to afford to take it is another thing entirely, and in this department Americans score well. U.S. citizens are a third wealthier per capita than their counterparts on the other side of the Atlantic, but they earn this the hard way. U.S. employees worked an annual average of 1,792 hours in 2003, according to the latest employment outlook from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. This compares with 1,453 hours in France, 1,446 hours in Germany and 1,673 hours in the United Kingdom. But the gap may be shrinking. Recently joined members of the European Union from the former Communist east are turning out to have a thoroughly 'American' work ethic. Poles clocked up an average 1,956 hours in 2003 while Czech workers put in an average 1,972 hours a year, OECD data showed. Wow, what a bummer for us in the US! This article begs the question.... how many days per year do macrumors memebers take off each year?