When it comes to using up annual leave, many Singaporeans, such as production manager Ben Goh, will say: 'Gimme a break.'

Mr Goh says he just does not have the time to clear all 25 days of his annual leave, managing only 15. The unused days are forfeited.

The 35-year-old bachelor, who works in a pharmaceutical manufacturing firm, says: 'Every week, there are deadlines to meet, whether to push out products or work on projects to improve the manufacturing process. There are 1,001 things to be done, so how to take leave?'

So he plans trips to coincide with the weekend, meaning he is away from work for only two days that week. He has not gone beyond Asia for a holiday for the past four years.

But he says: 'I have no regrets as long as I am learning in my job. It's all part and parcel of life - to gain something, you need to sacrifice something. And the higher you go, the more responsibilities you have.'

It turns out loyal toilers like Mr Goh are not unusual here.

According to a recent global web poll on annual leave by recruitment consultancy firm Robert Walters, 67 per cent of 670 Singapore-based professionals surveyed say they do not clear all their annual leave.

The poll, which was posted on Robert Walters' 19 country websites in August, asked respondents how much of their holiday allowance they took last year. Holiday allowance refers to annual leave.

They had five options of 100, 75, 50, 25 and 0 per cent.

For Singapore, only 33 per cent of the respondents say they clear 100 per cent of their annual leave.

The lowest polled was China, with only 14 per cent out of 210 respondents saying they clear 100 per cent of their leave.

Countries with high percentage of professionals taking all their holiday allowance include Britain, where 54 per cent of the 2,260 respondents cleared all their annual leave.

The poll is by no means scientific and the number of respondents varies across different countries. But the Singapore results do paint a real picture of the work culture in Singapore.

Recruitment firms Kelly Services and Adecco Singapore say it is common to see candidates with a significant amount of uncleared leave which they usually offset with their notice period.

Companies that LifeStyle spoke to say most of their staff do clear their annual leave.

Still, LifeStyle found workaholics who do not take their full holiday entitlement. Reasons they gave ranged from pressing deadlines, heavy responsibilities, high opportunity costs and even 'no reason to be away from work'.

Senior public relations manager Ethan Ang, 35, does not clear half of his yearly leave because of the fear of missed opportunities when he is away. He declined to reveal the number of days of leave he has.

'In my line of work where we take on projects, I may lose opportunities to participate in jobs that can be springboards to my career advancement. So not taking all my leave is a necessary evil to advance in the rat race,' says Mr Ang, who has been with his company for three years.

Mr Darren Lee, 45, a general manager in an exhibitions and events company for five years, says he has too many responsibilities to tear himself away from the office. Hence, the manager, who is in charge of seven staff, takes leave only if he is going on a week-long holiday with his family of four at the end of the year.

With an additional day or two off here and there, he says he clears only 10 out of his 21 days of annual leave. The remainder is carried forward to the next year.

'Events take place all year round, so I have to oversee everything and make decisions. Even if there are no events, we are still planning in advance for another event. So I do not want to go on leave if I have no reason to,' he says.

He rationalises his work attitude as one of a Chinese mentality. 'I have worked in a British company in Malaysia, and the British staff plan and clear their leave within the year.'

Sociologist Paulin Straughan says she is not surprised with the survey findings as Singapore, like other Asian countries such as Japan and Korea, emphasises a strong work ethic, which unfortunately translates into a culture of overworking.

Furthermore, Singapore is such a small country and people get influenced and sucked into this work culture easily.

She says: 'Singapore is so small, so if you have a group of people who are working so hard and their disposable income gets larger, the implications on the rest of the society are direct and immediate. You don't just read about these high-fliers in the papers, but you actually find them in your office, neighbourhood and among your peers. So how can you not be drawn into the competition?'

Another reason she gives is that there is a grey area on how productivity is measured. 'We have moved away from judging performance based on just a 9-to-5 work schedule, to looking at output in the spirit of promoting productivity.

'But there is a missing part of the equation: We do not know how output is measured. Young professionals are expected to perform but are not sure how much is sufficient and good enough for promotion and performance bonus, so you keep running till you cannot take it anymore,' she says.

The danger for society is that such over-investment in work is not sustainable and will have implications for demographics. Dr Straughan adds: 'If young professionals spend the prime of their lives invested in paid work, they will neglect areas such as growing relationships and family formations.'

Companies also have a part to play. Ms Christine Chan, senior manager of human resource services at Adecco Singapore, says: 'Senior managers set the tone for how middle managers and junior employees approach time off. If the senior manager is not taking vacations or time off, or frowns upon an employee who does, it's likely that employees may not jump at the chance of going on frequent vacations.'

Ms Melissa Norman, managing director of Kelly Services, Singapore and Malaysia, advises professionals to plan their leave for short-term and long-term breaks to help manage stress, work-life balance and maintain a positive mindset.

'Even an occasional one- or two-day break after completing a project will give you sufficient time to relax and recharge your energy,' she says.