Experts call for scrapping of mainland 'golden weeks'
Holiday chaos leads to appeals for changes to the arrangements for allocating paid leave
As millions of mainlanders returned to work yesterday after an eight-day holiday, the debate over whether to scrap such "golden weeks" is raging on the mainland, with some holidaymakers recalling horror stories from the past week.
Many experts have called for the introduction of more paid leave to replace the second golden week holiday of the year, but others say the existing holiday arrangements can stimulate consumer spending and better protect workers rights.
State media described the just concluded eight-day golden week holiday, a day longer than usual because the Mid-Autumn Festival holiday fell on September 30, as the worst holiday week in recent years despite a drop in casualties from traffic accidents and a rise in tourism revenue.
During the week, there were 68,422 traffic accidents, killing 794 people - a 46.4 per cent drop in fatalities from last year's National Day holiday week. More than 34 million visitors were received by 119 tourist spots.
However, many major mainland cities were overloaded with tourists and many tourists in major scenic spots were stranded for hours without any food, complaining that their holiday had turned into a nightmare. The golden week arrangement, which sees millions of mainlanders take their holidays at the same time, was introduced in 1999, when the authorities wanted to boost economic growth following the Asian financial crisis.
But Cai Jiming , director of Tsinghua University's Political Economy Research Centre, said the holiday arrangement had resulted in more drawbacks than benefits.
"The authorities only focus on short-term economic gain, without realising the negative impact caused to citizens," Cai said.
The drawbacks include difficulties buying train tickets, over-booked hotels and the suspension of government services.
"Many people are on holiday, but it is not a quality holiday that they want," Cai said.
In 1999, the authorities extended the May 1 Labour Day holiday from one day to three, and the National Day holiday from two days to three, and later combined the holidays with the days off in the two weeks preceding and following them. Together with the Lunar New Year holiday, there were three golden weeks.
Cai said the National Day holiday week should be replaced by more paid leave, which would allow workers to take days off whenever they see fit, and statutory holidays to celebrate traditional Chinese festivals.
"The pressure on holidays would be relieved if we had more statutory holidays, and workers could take long leave if they were entitled to paid leave," he said.
But Liu Simin , a tourism researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the golden week arrangement should be kept because many workers on the mainland were still not entitled to paid leave, and the golden week could ensure that they get time off work.