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13 Oct, 2013

Poll finds majority unhappy with China’s public holiday rules


Shanghai, (Shanghai Daily) October 12, 2013 – Most Chinese are unhappy with the country’s public holiday arrangements which feature long breaks at the cost of working extra days, according to a nation-wide poll.

The national holiday coordinating office, which is affiliated to the National Tourism Administration, opened a poll at news portals on Thursday. Voting ends today, but so far, feedback has not been positive.

More than 154,000 people had taken part in the poll on sina.com by 7:50pm yesterday. Of these, 82 percent said they were not satisfied with current arrangements. At qq.com, some 73 percent of more than 709,000 people who had voted voiced dissatisfaction. And at sohu.com, where almost 279,000 people had voted, the figure was 76 percent.

The poll has sparked debate on whether China should keep its long public holidays. Most people who voted are opposed to working weekends in order to piece together week-long or three-day holidays.

At sina.com, more than 56 percent of those in the survey backed scrapping the seven-day holidays, while 39 percent said week-long breaks should be retained.

The three-day break received the thumbs down from 58 percent of those who voted at sina.com, though 36 percent backed it. A similar pattern was seen at QQ and Sohu.

Many of those who voted want the country’s most important holiday, the Spring Festival, to be longer than seven days, as traveling to visit family can take days.

China has 11 official holidays a year. Usually, two weekdays around a single holiday date are also given as holiday creating a three-day break. Time is made up by working weekends. And for a seven-day holiday over National Day and the Spring Festival, employees usually must work six, seven or even eight consecutive days to offset the extra days off.

The system has been long criticized as unreasonable and described as a fraud creating the illusion of longer holidays. And because the vast majority of the population is on holiday at the same time, huge numbers flock to tourist attractions, creating what the Chinese call “a mountain of people, a sea of people.”

“I felt exhausted following the government’s holiday arrangements. What we need are real holidays,” posted one web user. Some experts have suggested combining seven-day or three-day holidays to create longer breaks, saying this would stagger numbers at popular scenic areas.

But others have called for an end to working weekends to make up days off. Wang Jianmin, a tourism researcher with Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said as things currently stand, China’s people are being deprived of the right to have normal vacations.

If employees want extra days off around a public holiday, then they should use their own paid leave, Wang told the Beijing Times.

Fellow researcher Liu Simin said three-day breaks were too short for a proper vacation and did little to boost the tourism industry. Liu suggested giving workers more paid leave instead, the Beijing News reported.

Travel agencies said it would be a huge blow to the industry if the government ended long holiday breaks. However, Liu said that grumbles from the public over the complex holiday arrangements last month and this month indicated that a rethink is needed.

From September 16, most people worked for three days, and then had the three-day Mid-Autumn Festival break. Then they returned to work for six consecutive days, followed by a day off.

This was followed by another two days at work before the seven-day National Day holiday. Employees then returned to work for five days, had one day off, then resumed their normal work routine.

The State Council decided to create three seven-day holidays in 1999 to boost tourism. In a bid to ease holiday congestion, in December 2007 the State Council reduced the seven-day Labor Day holiday to three days and added one-day holidays for the Qingming, Dragon Boat and Mid-Autumn festivals.