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12 Aug, 2015

Chinese govt encourages people to work less, travel more

Beijing, (Xinhua/ECNS/chinadaily.com.cn) 2015-08-11 — The Chinese government is encouraging people to work 4.5 days a week in a bid to bolster tourism amid the flagging economy.

In summer, if conditions permit, more flexibility should be given to employees to help them take vacations using Friday afternoons, Saturdays and Sundays, according to a document published Tuesday by the General Office of the State Council. The document, titled Several Decisions on Further Promoting Tourism-related Investment and Consumption, is dated August 4.

The document also said China will build more tourism infrastructure, including cruise ports and RV parks. Cruise ship tourism should be encouraged and 10 ports for cruise vessels will be built by 2020.

“Boosting investment and consumption for tourism is of great importance to improving quality of life and developing modern services,” noted the document.

Great efforts should be made to improve tourism facilities, and 57,000 clean toilets at tourist attractions will be built or renovated within three years, it said, adding the toilets will be well-maintained and free of charge.

Private capital is encouraged to partner with government funding in building 1,000 parks for RV tourists and other independent travelers by 2020, and all important tourist attractions and tourist cities should be staffed with professionals to provide tourism information by 2020, it added.

These measures can help employees use their vacation time for travel more flexibly, while also tapping the full potential of tourism consumption, said Wu Wenxue, deputy head of the China National Tourism Administration.

The news caused a stir among netizens. The hashtag #short vocation including Friday afternoon and weekends# became a hot topic on Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like social networking site in China. The topic has been read by more than 25 million people.

“Long Live Premier Li. This should be implemented immediately,” said a netizen. Another said: “Please carry it out as soon as possible, otherwise the summer will end soon.” Some netizens pointed out some potential problems: “The tickets in scenic spots will rise again.”

The State Council has officially promoted paid vacation for employees at least five times this year.

Wu said the State Council had passed a proposal on further promoting tourism investment and consumption during its executive meeting on July 28.

The guideline has made it clear that more effort will be made to push ahead with the implementation of paid vacation rules, Wu said.

It also disclosed further concrete measures that are set to be taken, including encouraging flexible vacation arrangements.

According to a survey by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, only half of qualifying Chinese employees take paid vacations.

While Party and government organs and their affiliated institutions, large state-owned enterprises and foreign-funded companies honor the requirement relatively better, paid vacation rules are poorly implemented in private enterprises as well as small and medium-sized companies, the survey found.

Related: Paid leave a legal right, but shouldn’t be forced

BEIJING, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) – The right to paid leave should be legally protected, according to the Labor Law of 1995, but so should the right to forgo paid leave. Some employers, especially government institutions, and local regulations have forced workers to take paid leave, without regard for workers’ choice and individual circumstances.

State Council Regulations of Paid Annual Leave of Employees, which took effect in January 2008, stipulated that employees can opt out of their paid leave, and that employers must pay workers three times their daily salary for their unfulfilled vacation.

Chinese authorities have promoted paid leave in recent years as part of the country’s plan for economic restructuring, promoting consumption and developing the service industry. They hope the time off will give people a chance to shop and spend on travel and leisure.

However, according to a nationwide survey conducted by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, around 50 percent of Chinese employees choose not to take paid leave due to concerns that taking vacation might give their bosses the impression they are lazy and influence future job promotions.

In other jobs, such as sales, employees forgo paid leave to avoid smaller bonuses as only basic salary is given during leave, a violation of the 2008 regulation, but common in many sectors.

To “guarantee workers’ recreational rights,” provincial governments across China have adopted regulations allowing employees to “flexibly arrange their vacations,” and campaigns have been launched to investigate enforcement of the regulations.

Some local measures have been excessive by “forcing” employees to take paid leave, while others have run afoul of the law by abolishing the additional pay owed to those who give up their vacations.

Paid leave has also been linked to the annual work assessment of employees and departments.

Although government employers are demonstrating their resolve to implement the law through forced paid leave, it is unrealistic to impose these policies uniformly and without flexibility in all workplaces.

Despite the good intentions of advocating rest, local regulations that put those who forgo paid leave at a disadvantage for model worker titles, promotions, and other perks are inappropriate.

Enforcing paid leave in a one-size-fits-all manner should be discouraged, as China has not reached universal coverage for paid leave benefits.

Forced labor, forced extension of work hours, withholding back pay and refusal to buy insurance for workers are lasting problems in some parts of China and violations of basic labor rights.

For these workers, paid leave is a luxury. They should not be further disadvantaged by local measures that penalize them for not taking leave.

More caution should be adopted to introduce paid leave, instead of a drastic, sweeping imposition.