Golden Week

Messy schedule for holidays raises hackles

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 August, 2010, 12:00am


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Authorities have arranged probably the most bizarre holiday schedule yet for mainland workers this autumn.

As usual, certain weekends are to be worked, allowing weekdays adjacent to holidays to be taken off.

But with the Mid-Autumn Festival, which follows the lunar calendar, falling midweek on September 22 this year, and the National Day 'golden week' national holiday starting nine days later on October 1, the powers that be have decided to chop the schedule into eight parts.

National Day ranks second only to Lunar New Year, and in working out the complex schedule the authorities have heard complaints from employees whose hopes of a long holiday have been dashed.

And companies with international clients say that their operations have been messed up.

'We receive very few e-mails and calls on Friday and Monday, let alone weekends,' said Zhou Yan, who sells plastic fabric to overseas clients for Zhejiang Yuli Plastic Co in Haining, Zhejiang .

'I have nothing to do at all on weekends.'

Vivien Zheng, an executive assistant at the Beijing office of international executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles, said her company simply discarded the official schedule whenever a weekend was moved to accommodate a festival.

'There's no point in working on weekends for us, so we'll have a 16-day holiday this year,' she said.

Some have scoffed that as the country becomes more internationally connected, the planning of holidays remains mired in the planned economy era.

'It's ridiculous to make it so complex,' said Chen Jiangjie, a worker at Zhejiang Ocean Shipping, a company specialising in international logistics. 'Why can't colleagues just take turns having a week off in September or October? This way work is much less affected and everybody gets a complete holiday.' But he is sure the official schedule will be strictly followed in his company, since it is state-owned.

Unlike Western holidays, which mostly fall on a fixed workday, many Chinese holidays fall on different days each year because traditional festivals are set according to the lunar calendar. And from 2008, the Ching Ming Festival, Dragon Boat Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival were added as public holidays.

There is only one public holiday for Mid-Autumn Festival and three for National Day. But traditionally the State Council juggles weekend schedules to make the former three days and the latter seven days.

An official from the National Development and Reform Committee was quoted by Xinhua as saying that the arrangement this year was made to balance work and rest. He said people could use annual leave to combine the public holidays for a long break.

But many private company employees do not get paid annual leave, so 'golden weeks' result in mass travel on public transport and huge jams at tourist hot spots.

Shi Qing, who works in the marketing department of China International Travel Service, said packages to the United States and Canada between September 18 and October 10 had sold out. 'Routes to Europe and America are most popular for this period since it's one of the longest holidays of the year,' she said.

Li Shuang, vice-general manager of BTG Outbound Tours, said his company still focused on packages that lasted seven days, in conjunction with the official National Day break. 'After all, only employees at foreign-invested companies have the benefit of packaging the two holidays with their annual leave, so we expect only a small number of people taking a longer than usual holiday.'