Debate, dissatisfaction over China’s public holiday system which bites off weekends

As China is nearing yet another long holiday period on account of Labor Day – from 1st to 5th May, an online debate has started on the government’s public holiday system and the lack of annual leaves.

As of Sunday evening, posts with a hashtag translating to “the real face of Labor Day holiday” have been viewed over 440 million times on Chinese twitter like social media platform Weibo. According to an online poll by a domestic news outlet, 80% of some 819,000 respondents said they would rather have shorter holidays.

As reported by local media, many Chinese netizens have expressed their dislike about China’s public holiday system, which bites off free Saturdays and Sundays around other festivals. Social media site Weibo is currently full of complaints from workers bemoaning their lost weekends. They lamented; the so-called five-day holiday is paid for by their weekends. Reacting strongly, people said, if there is no time for these days off, then it should not be given.

The system has been unpopular for years. According to a 2013 government survey, four-fifths of respondents said they were unsatisfied with it. However, it is helpful for the student community who can plan visits to their home in these five days. China’s calendar counts seven public holidays, with the longest — Spring Festival and National Day — each lasting seven days, including weekends. But due to makeup days, workers get a total of just 11 days off each year for public holidays.

Chinese workers also get relatively little annual leave. A person with up to 10 years of work experience is entitled to just five days off. Workers with up to 20 years get 10 days, and those with more years receive 15 days. For comparison, in the European Union all employees must be granted a minimum of four weeks of paid vacation.

Another issue with this public holiday system in China is that millions of people use these days off to travel domestically because there is a lack of annual leaves. As a result, many tourist attractions are overflowing with people. In 2008, the government shortened the Labor Day holiday from its original seven days and added another three-day holiday, hoping to spread out the upticks in domestic tourism. For the upcoming Labor Day, the first holiday since China’s COVID-19 outbreak when the risk of infection is minimal nationwide, people are predicted to make some 200 million trips.

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