Golden Thoughts

Morgan McKinley November 15, 2013 3 mins read

That’s it, it’s finally over…

I’m referring to the bulk of confusing and mind-numbing series of “adjusted vacation” that is unique to China (working on weekends to pro-long a 1-day or 3-days statutory holiday). When I first arrived, I was “fortunate” enough to face the May 1st Labour Day holiday, where China was enthusiastically introducing me to a portion of her 1.3 billion people. A harmless walk along the landmark Huangpu River rendered me breathless (from the pushing) and to be honest I hardly caught a glimpse of anything other than a sea of heads.

As the year progressed, I’ve adopted the “stay-at-home” tactic during these long-adjusted holidays and planned in advance in order to manage the previous/next weekends which I suffer in order to extend them. Thus, every few months, I fall into an accordion-like situation where I’m either away from work excessively, or working excessively (6, 7 days non-stop). A quick search online shows that I’m not the only frustrated one questioning the relevance on adjusted holidays in China, which kind of give the wrong perception that China has more holidays than others (well, who else works on a Sunday except middle-Eastern countries?). Other than creating huge traffic jams, exorbitant flight and train tickets as well as exerting undue stress on the infrastructure, Golden Week has been likened to “Golden Mess” in recent days.

Originally, the “work-on-weekends-to-extend-a-holiday” was created to encourage domestic travel and consumption. As the population grew more affluent, it does seem like the golden week did promote consumption, albeit overseas. Korea, London and Paris reported an increase in retail sales during the holiday (it’s not even THEIR holiday) and many retail stores with great foresight to hang Mandarin sales banners and hire Mandarin-speaking assistants were happily counting their Golden Gains.

While there will always be travel peaks (Christmas, summer holidays, school holidays etc), having the most populous nation on vacation at the same time is a logistic nightmare. There is an active debate now to vote for or against the idea of adjusted holidays (there’s actually a special department tasked to adjust these holidays, by the way). I’m really hoping that some changes can be made to adjust only the sacred ones and use the international standard of annual leave entitlement instead of working on weekends to “earn” the extra days. Honestly, an over-extended break is generally bad for corporate business (nation slows down) and just imagine the amount of fuel, time and money wasted on traffic jams (notoriously stretching to 8 hours) and queuing at scenic spots. Using the method of annual leave entitlement spreads out the load and allows employees the flexibility to take leave for each situation.

On that note, it might be worthwhile to compare what other nations are doing, and which country has the most number of paid leave in the world (nope, it’s not China).

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