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[Editorial] It is Necessary to Decrease the Number of National Holidays

[Editorial] It is Necessary to Decrease the Number of National Holidays

Posted April. 11, 2005 23:36,   


The Korean Chamber of Commerce and four other economic institutions have suggested to the government to increase the number of working days by taking National Foundation Day starting next year, and Children’s Day and Memorial Day starting 2012, off of the national holidays’ list. Their reason for this action is that Korea has more holidays than that of advanced nations, which makes it difficult for Korean businesses to maintain their competitiveness. This is a reasonable request. There is a need to examine this closely, especially since Korea will be starting the 5-day, 40-hour work week in July. We must work more to survive in the global market.

According to calculations made by Korcham, from 2006~2025, excluding the holidays that fall on Saturdays and Sundays, the average number of holidays annually is 10.3 in Korea, 10 in the United States, 8.8 in France, and 7.8 in Taiwan. Including paid holidays, the number of non-working days in Korea is 136~146, exceeding the U.S.’ 114 days and Japan’s 129~139 days. The United States and Japan’s labor productivity is 3~4 times higher than ours, and their GNP per capita is more than twice of ours. It would be difficult for us to catch up with so many national holidays.

We know from the European welfare states’ experience what the decrease of working hours bring about, not the increase of jobs, but slow economic growth and lack of capacity for distribution. France passed a new law this year to increase the number of working hours from the 35-hour work week. The management and labor unions have compromised to work 48 hours a week. German company Siemens’ workers agreed to an increase of working hours in return for job security. The labor unions have realized that it is not always favorable for the workers to decrease the number of working hours.

The main reasons for Korea’s growth rate potential falling to around four percent are the lack of investment and the inflexibility of the labor market. If the working days decrease on top of this, falling economic growth and a decrease in income is inevitable. What would a holiday mean to the hungry worker? We must also take into account the income reduction and relative feeling of deprivation of the self-employed population. We must adjust the system so that workers can work more and earn more income.

The government should be applauded for its decision to remove Arbor Day and Constitution Day as national holidays and decrease the number of special vacations for government officials. If we work on Constitution Day, there is no reason we cannot work on the National Foundation Day.