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China Heading for a 4.5 Day Work Week


Opening paragraph from THE WORLD POST as carried by the Huffington Post.
reported June 15, 2016

By Hong Soon-do, Beijing correspondent, AsiaToday -

China has begun implementing an official policy for a 4.5-day work week as part of an effort to boost domestic consumption and leisure spending. As a result, South Korea is expected to benefit from it as Chinese tourists (also known as “youker”) would visit Korea all year unlike in the past when they visited on certain national holidays or long weekends.

Such assertion is not an exaggeration considering the positive response from provincial governments after the State Council released an official document last August encouraging government units to grant employees two and a half days off per week, in an effort to boost domestic spending and tourism. According to the June 14th report of Modern Express, one of Chinese leading newspapers, nearly 10 provincial governments have expressed their willingness to implement the two-and-a-half-day weekend scheme. Most of all, Zhejiang and Guangdong, the two provinces with big economies, are showing an enthusiastic attitude.

Moreover, three to four provincial governments including Jiangsu are also expected to come out in sympathy soon. This means that nearly half of 31 provincial governments are showing positive response to the two-and-a-half-day weekend scheme. It seems that implementation of 2.5-day weekend is likely to spread throughout the country by the end of the year or early next year.

Of course, the central and provincial governments will not set the 4.5-day work week policy into law. It will be up to each company to implement the policy according to their own circumstances. Companies that choose not to follow the recommendation will not be penalized.

However, once social consensus on the policy is formed, companies and government departments have no choice but to follow the trend. If the idea becomes realized, there is indeed potential for growth in tourism and domestic spending. Besides, this would fuel an explosion of youkers’ short-term overseas trips. This means that youkers could visit South Korea all the year round. Xu Ming, president of Chinese travel agency Asdaer, said, “There is no place like South Korea for a short-term trip abroad. Once the policy for a 4.5 day working week is settled next year, more Chinese are expected to visit Korea.” Perhaps, it’s not an exaggeration to say that a new strategy to attract youkers is required for Korean travel industry.


Post script:

I was too optimistic. China’s “shorter workweek” proposed to package 40 hours of work in four and a half days each week instead of five. We Americans had seen this before in the 4-day, 40-hour workweeks that were popular several decades ago. Although there was an obvious desire for shorter hours among working people, employers continued to be reluctant to grant this and organized labor was too weak to request it. But the news briefly caused my heart to flutter. I had assumed that the Chinese government would offer a real reduction in weekly work hours because that is what happened in 1995 when Saturday work was eliminated. (See a Chinese hotel manager's response to shorter-workweek legislation.) Evidently, it was not to be - at least not for the time being.

This communication from the World Economic Forum on December 11, 2015, provided a more sober picture of what was happening:

“Is China heading towards a 4.5 day working week?

China has begun implementing an official policy for a 4.5-day working week as part of an effort to increase domestic consumption and leisure spending.

Chongqing is the first city taking steps to reduce the working week to 4.5 days. The 30 million people living in the municipality in China’s south-west will enjoy a two-and-a-half-day weekend. Hebei and Jiangxi provinces are also considering giving workers a longer weekend.

The idea was endorsed by China’s state council in August and is part of a national plan to increase consumption. It is hoped that by giving people more time off, they will spend money and provide a boost to the economy.

The largest proportion of Chinese consumers’ income goes on clothes, food and home improvements. But government officials believe that there is potential for growth in leisure spending.

Following the introduction of the 4.5-day working week, local economies are expected to see a boost in domestic tourism revenue, particularly during the summer months.

Domestic tourism generated nearly half a trillion US dollars for China’s economy in 2014 – far more than the amount Chinese tourists spend overseas. The extended weekend, which is expected to come into force in the summer, will give workers more opportunities to travel and spend money within China.

The move is not expected to cost the economy – taking a half day off won’t translate into doing less work because employees on 40-hour contracts will still complete their normal set of hours. The government will allow organizations to manage the scheme as they see fit, and it will be up to each company to implement the policy according to their own “circumstances”. The government is encouraging commitment to the scheme from state-owned organizations, private enterprises and public-sector offices.

China is not alone in its decision to implement a shorter working week. A handful of tech companies have introduced four-day weeks in a bid to increase job satisfaction and boost staff morale. There are reports that some firms have seen an increase in revenue as a result of the extended weekends.”

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