Extended holiday shows China's socio-economic advancement

By Li Qiaoyi Source:Global Times Published: 2019/5/2 10:22:20

For those living in the world's second-largest economy, one significant change for 2019 is the May Day holiday, which has been extended from one to four days, a favorable move attesting to China's socioeconomic advancement. 

It's thrilling to read data and news reports over the holidays regarding overbooked trains, flights and hotels, along with tourist attractions filled with domestic travelers. 

Travel enthusiasm suggests greater efforts are needed to ensure everyone is entitled to annual leave and holidays, and to improve travel services. 

Hard work and diligence over the past four decades have played a role in building the economic miracle that China is today. However, along with the shift to innovation-based quality growth, there has been a demand for leisure travel that indicates higher living standards.  

Domestic tourists made a total of 5.54 billion trips in 2018, up from 1.71 billion in 2008, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics. 

Additionally, trips made by domestic travelers on public holidays continue to rise, unaffected by China growth woes. 

During the three-day Qingming Festival in early April, domestic travelers completed 112 million trips, up 10.9 percent, according to figures from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Tourism revenue during this period rose by 13.7 percent to 47.9 billion yuan ($7.12 billion).

An economic slowdown suggests a more nuanced and sophisticated approach to growth, which actually complements the evolution, emotionally and psychologically, of leading a more relaxed life.

Recent contention over "996" culture - a work schedule that starts at 9 am and finishes at 9 pm, six days a week, and has thwarted Chinese techies - is arguably a sign that work-life balance is becoming a higher priority for the well-educated and higher paid sectors of China's workforce. 

After years of economic growth, demand for a better life balance is justified. The May Day extension is another step toward sustainable growth. 

A solution-oriented mindset, as shown by the government's decision to extend the holiday, needs to be applied to fundamental life issues.

The enthusiasm for leisure travel during public holidays bears testimony to huge tourism potential yet to be tapped. It also sheds light on the right to paid annual leave, among various employment rights, which is often neglected among the lesser-educated parts of the country's workforce. 

Ten years after regulations on paid annual leave for employees went into effect on January 1, 2008, it remains difficult for many to enjoy their holidays, according to a 2018 report by workercn.cn, a website run by the All-China Federation of Trade Unions.

The regulations stipulate that employees are entitled to at least five days of paid annual holiday leave, and for each day that isn't used, employees should be compensated 300 percent of their daily salary. 

The report said nearly 30 percent of the country's white-collar workers feel the vacation is not entirely theirs to decide and more than 80 percent aren't able to disconnect entirely from work while on vacation. Foreign-invested businesses and joint ventures between Chinese and foreign companies are ranked highest in terms of employee satisfaction with paid time off, followed by state-owned enterprises and government agencies. Meanwhile, privately owned businesses are ranked lowest, according to the report.

A few reasons include the weak position employees find themselves in against their employers. Although holiday entitlements are statutory, whether employees can enjoy their holidays is discretionary. 

Action needs to be taken to avoid dysfunction within the legal and regulatory framework. The outcry against extended working hours within China's tech sector, compounded with complaints for not being paid overtime, should serve as wake-up calls for efforts aimed at protecting employee rights. Such actions would help establish a foundation for the domestic travel boom and strengthen growth models. 

Criticism generated from poor travel experiences, such as being ripped off, should be taken seriously. Instead of locking the stable door after the horse has been stolen, a meticulously designed regulatory system with penalties for different travel scams, among other irregularities, should be implemented. 

Travelers, or better yet, consumers, should have access to easier and realistic ways to protect their rights, avoiding a scenario whereby the pursuit for a better life is an exhausting farce.  

Not until Chinese citizens can devote themselves to enjoying their holidays can the economy claim a sweeping victory.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn


Posted in: EYE ON ECONOMY

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