Chinese people work hard, but they need to learn to play hard as well

By Wendy Min Source:Global Times Published: 2019/1/17 16:58:40

Hebei Province recently stated that a 2.5 day weekend would be implemented to give people flexible working hours which might lead to more time with their families, more consumption and off-peak travel.

Whether or not this policy can be successfully implemented remains to be seen. While some see this policy as only benefiting civil servants and being non-applicable to the private sector, at least this suggestion recognizes one thing: flexibility is important for the social economy. There is a need to rethink the way China works.

According to UK research figures, the average Chinese work more than 2,000 hours each year, which is 300 plus hours or 37.5 days more than their UK counterparts. By law, the European Union grants at least four weeks of paid vacation, which explains why the continent shuts down during summer and work is halted. So, all in all, Asia and China need to seriously chill a bit.

A country's developmental stage and culture means varying work ethics, however, when weekends are so easily taken away by technology and people work overtime or worse, when companies pride themselves on extra hours, people need to rethink how they work. More and more young workers are encountering work-related health issues so flexibility and longer breaks are needed to ensure that Chinese are not just busy bees but smart ones too. Work well. Rest well. Work hard. Play hard.

I understand the downside of such a policy but I can't help but like the idea of a mini-long weekend or greater flexibility and extra hours off for the greater Chinese workforce. As an expat in China, I miss those Aussie days when it was far easier to balance work with life. Some 20 plus days of paid annual leave was sufficient for me to recuperate and keep on working. I value hard work but also believe that working overtime does not equate to efficiency and productivity.

There is nothing wrong with being competitive or instilling the notion of hard work in the minds of the many as a means to curb insecurity and boost better pay for oneself. It is in China's DNA to work hard. Confucian value advocates endurance and sacrifice to withstand hardship. Being diligent and having the ability to "swallow the bitter and indulge in the pleasure later" has long been ingrained in one's psyche. Seen as forms of virtue, it doesn't hurt to ensure that such practices remain healthy and sustainable. Chinese do not need to pull their socks up but must learn to really let loose and enjoy both life and work.

Work smart does not mean longer hours because the latter does not equate to greater efficiency. This policy should cater to all workers regardless of the nature of their job so that minimal disruptions are caused. One common complaint is having such breaks might result in delays at government departments. Therefore, before this policy is (if at all) widely applied across the country, adjustments need to be made to ensure there is greater efficiency, creativity and productivity from the promotion of a healthy life-work balance. The focus must be long-term and time is needed to see if consumption can be boosted.

In conclusion, I wish there could be more paid leaves for Chinese because five days is outrageous, 10 days is insufficient so 15 days should be the norm and while I'm at it, can we also get more paid leaves for both new mothers and fathers and family visits? 

The author is a freelance writer. She was born in China, raised in Australia, educated in China, Australia and France.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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