Golden Week

Workers split on festival changes

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 November, 2007, 12:00am


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Workers were divided yesterday over plans to replace the week-long May Day holiday with separate, traditional festivals. Some said the changes would mean greater work flexibility, but others insisted there would be fewer chances to return home.

For a decade, the three 'golden week' holidays have been a prime time for millions to swamp tourist spots. But for those working far from home, the absence of paid leave in most firms means the breaks are the only chance to see their families.

A draft regulation that would allow people to take paid annual leave has been put forward for public consultation.

The inclusion of Lunar New Year's Eve and the Ching Ming, Dragon Boat and Mid-Autumn festivals in the proposed calendar suggests an attempt by officials to revive traditional Chinese values and customs that critics say are disappearing.

Yang Keqi of Shanghai said the proposal would allow her to spend more time with her family during the traditional festivals, which highlight the importance of family reunions and respect for ancestors.

'We should adhere to China's traditional customs,' she said. 'Also, I feel tired working eight or nine days in a row before the golden week.'

The golden weeks include three official days off, but employees usually work the weekend before so they can have seven days off in a row.

Li Gen, also from Shanghai, welcomed the idea of celebrating traditional holidays. 'I saw many people celebrate Halloween, but I don't understand why they are so fond of these holidays while neglecting our own,' he said. He avoids travelling during the golden weeks as 'there are just so many people'.

If the public holiday and annual leave proposals were passed, Mr Li said he would have more freedom to plan his holidays. 'I would love to ask for leave and make some trips during off-peak seasons.'

But for Shenzhen office worker Shen Yu , who is from Wuhan , one less golden week would mean less time to travel back home.

'Our hometown and parents are thousands of miles away. Long holidays make it possible for us to visit our family,' he said. 'Holidays for traditional festivals mean nothing to young people like me. They just make me feel bad and lonely in this city.'

Chen Shifeng , who employs about a dozen people in Guangzhou, welcomed the proposal because work would flow more smoothly if he did not have to close thrice a year.

'I have to postpone solving all problems during the long vacations when they are supposed to be solved as soon as possible,' he said. 'It takes three to four days for my employees, mostly programmers, to get back into their usual work mode.'

If the proposal was passed, the tourism industry would suffer losses in the short term until a 'more mature holiday culture' developed, said Kevin Han Kui , vice-general manager of travel agent China CYTS. 'If people can have more freedom to plan, we can better make use of our tourism resources instead of fighting for guides and entrance tickets.'