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Alternative Day-off Holiday System Mulled

Posted December. 12, 2009 09:31,   


The government yesterday said it could introduce a day off Friday or the following Monday if a national holiday falls on the weekend.

A senior official at the Strategy and Finance Ministry said, “To figure out how a reshuffle of the holiday system will affect the national economy, including GDP, we will commission a study to an external think tank.”

“Because of mixed views on the reshuffle of the system even within the government, we judged it wise to make a decision based on the results of an objective study.”

The Culture, Sports and Tourism Ministry has considered the alternative day-off system for holidays to promote the tourism sector. The reluctance on this matter by the Knowledge Economy Ministry representing the corporate sector and the Public Administration and Security Ministry supervising laws on public holidays, however, have stalled discussion.

Prime Minister Chung Un-chan told the National Assembly last month, “The government will positively consider (the alternative day-off system). Subsequently, we have begun a feasibility study. As such, watchers say the government will come up with a plan to reshuffle the holiday system sooner rather than later.

An official at the Public Administration and Security Ministry added, “Of course, objective materials will be helpful,” implying a positive response to the study.

Korea has 14 national holidays designated under law. When Saturdays and Sundays are added to those holidays, the number of days off for those under the five-day workweek system is 118 per year. Since three to eight of the holidays fall on a Saturday or Sunday, the number of days off can be as low as 110 or as many as 115 per year.

The number of days off this year, however, is just 110 and that of next year will be 112, smaller than 120 days or more in Taiwan and Hong Kong; 119 in Japan; 118 in Russia; 116 in France; and 114 in the U.S. and Germany.

In Korea, seven bills on raising the number of days off through the introduction of alternative holidays have been submitted to and are pending at the National Assembly.

If the system is introduced, the number of three-day holidays from Friday to Sunday or Saturday to Monday will increase. This is expected to raise leisure activity among the people, which will in turn expand the domestic consumption base, including tourism.

Moreover, the public can set stable leisure plans based on a more predictable holiday schedule.

Critics, however, say more holidays will only add to the burden of companies at a time when the global economic crisis has yet to end. As such, persuading the business community is the key to the introduction of the alternative day-off system.

In a related move, the government is considering reducing the number of official public holidays from 14 to 12 in return for assuring the number of holidays through alternative days off.

A Strategy and Finance Ministry official said, “If the system is revised, the number of holidays will increase somewhat but will not necessarily reduce labor productivity.”