Paid leave in China is on the paltry side: five days for a full time employee of up to five years, and 10 days for someone who has worked up to a decade, according to rules drawn up by the State Council. (There are also two big public holiday periods, a week off around Chinese New Year and a similar Golden Week period in early October.)
But surprisingly few people ever take their full quota of paid leave for fear that it could affect their chances of promotion.
The result? An overworked, underperforming labour force with too little time to spend with their families, and less inclination to go travelling and shopping. None of which is good for Chinese society or the economy.
The State Council wants to change this. Last week, the Chinese cabinet issued a draft plan giving schools the power to introduce short holidays midway through their terms. It is hoped that parents would then be encouraged to take their paid leave and spend it with their children.
By diverting family holidays to these new times, the scheme’s other aim is to reduce the pressure on public transport and tourist sites during the longer public holidays – such as next month’s manic Golden Week – which everyone gets off.
For example, last October armed police were called in to evacuate Jiuzhaigou, a popular national park in Sichuan province after 40,000 tourists descended on it in a single day. The large number of visitors overwhelmed the bus system inside the park and led to nasty scenes as people began hijacking vehicles to get out of the reserve.
Train and plane tickets are also notoriously hard to come by during these periods.
Newspapers and netizens have welcomed the new plan with the caveat that it will only work if employers are forced to give staff the time off. “For lots of employees, paid vacation is a benefit that only exists on paper, they can’t enjoy their right,” Legal Daily wrote.
The Haikou Evening news also weighed in that “mini breaks are a good idea”. But it added that if employers did not follow through and grant the paid leave, the new school holiday regime might “even be an inconvenience and trouble for families”.
News of the scheme also led to people comparing holiday allowances – or the lack of them – among different professions.
“I’m a provincial government officer. But there are no annual vacations for me, let alone paid vacation. If I want to go on holiday I have to accept a salary cut,” wrote one netizen.
Another suggested: “This proves how hard it is to survive in China, you either put up with it, or you are told to get lost.”
Other netizens noted this was the fourth time this year that Beijing had made noises encouraging employers to grant their staff more paid leave. That’s an indication of how tough it is going to be to change employer attitudes.
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