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Rescheduling Chinese holidays can ease tensions
Publication Date : 01-10-2012
Chinese "Golden Week" holidays have become peak travelling seasons and a time for traffic jams, huge crowds and numerous complaints. Perhaps traffic snarls, and the mad rush for flight, railway and bus tickets could be reduced if more holidays are declared, as some Internet users suggest.
A survey of 30,000 people, conducted by the Institute of Social Science Survey of Peking University, showed on average people work 8.66 hours a day. Some workaholics end up working more than 77 hours a week, almost twice the legal limit of 40 hours. But they get a mere 21 days of paid leave. In terms of paid leave, China is believed to be the third from the bottom in the list of countries.
Therefore, many netizens have suggested that more paid leave could ease the pressure on buses, trains and flights, because people will travel at different times instead of just once or twice a year.
Especially for this longest-ever eight-day Golden Week holiday from Sept. 30 to Oct. 7, as there will be some 362 million travellers on the move during the holiday, according to an estimate by the China Tourism Academy.
And the foreseeable travel peak can also be attributed to the government's new policy that exempts passenger cars with seven seats or less from highway tolls during the leisure period.
As the prospect has raised calls online for more holidays, but there are different opinions.
Dai Xuefeng, deputy director of and research fellow at the Tourism Research Centre, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, says people in China do not get fewer days' leave. The only change the authorities should make is to reschedule the existing holidays rather than introducing more.
Citing the Regulation on Public Holidays for National Annual Festivals and Memorial Days, he says Chinese people are entitled to 115 days off a year from weekends and statutory holidays. So they don't work for one-third of a year.
The problem, he argues, is that the paid leave system is not well implemented by employers in the Chinese mainland, and law enforcement officers are not powerful enough to ensure they do.
There is a big difference in practice in China and other countries, Dai says. People in other countries, especially in advanced economies, exercise their rights to go on leave and are supported by a strong legal and cultural environment. In China, people will think twice asking for paid leave as it is viewed as akin to seeking extra benefits, while employers deny such requests when they want the employees to keep working.
Hence, the related authorities should supervise employers to follow the regulations more strictly and grant the employees their legal rights.
There's a mad travel rush during the "Golden Week" holidays because people do not take long journeys during shorter holidays. The government shortened the May Day "Golden Week" holiday to three days in 2009 and added two other short vacations to the list. This has prompted many Chinese to spend more time at home, as opposed to travelling and spending abroad, and boosted the domestic market.
Besides, considering people won't make long journeys during other short vacations, the only long vacation of the Golden Week has concentrated too many long trip plans and thus has a "crowding out effect" that is partly attributable to the feeling of fewer holidays.
To help boost domestic consumption, the authorities can reschedule the holidays and grant people more longer holidays.
Moreover, while domestic tourism can help boost the national economy, travelling abroad is of equal importance to broaden people's horizons and expand their minds, and it's a major step for Chinese people to accommodate themselves into globalisation, adds Dai.
The author is a reporter with China Daily.