Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Golden Week Holidays - A Matter of Choice

This is my translation of a Southern Metropolis article re: Golden Week Reform:-

“The ‘Golden Week’ is going to be reformed. I have heard people calling for it before. But now I am seeing a ‘testing the water’ move.

According to news reports, ‘The National Travel Bureau has revealed that the current vacation system will be adjusted. The relevant department’s new vacation proposal is at its final stage of discussion. It only remains to be considered and approved at the National People’s Congress.’

Just like the Golden Week was once bestowed on us without much prior notice, we are now just as unprepared for the new vacation proposal. This new vacation proposal will be considered and approved by the highest level of authority, but before its approval, we are to submit to the “relevant department’s” decision to determine our way of life. As a target of this decision, our only contribution is posing as an object of research.

I am not very clear as to how the Golden Week was created. But as to why it is named as ‘Golden Week’, I do have some idea. Taking a rest from work is a kind of right. However, the Golden Week does not amount to taking a rest. It is merely a ‘Golden Program’. People’s statistical interest in this Golden Program is always how many tourists there are and how much tourist spending there is. The significance of the Golden Week is its ability to ‘drive domestic consumption’.

The Golden Week actually creates a blank in people’s lives and makes people want to fill the blank with something as they are unable to bear it. For Chinese people who seldom get vacation with pay, the seven-day blank definitely would stimulate their desire to travel and thus lead to a hot trend in nation-wide traveling. This is something well within the estimation of the Golden Week designer. A traveling hot trend is an essential motive behind the design of the Golden Week.

Including the Spring Festival Golden Week and the Labor Day Golden Week, there are a total of three Golden Weeks in a year. The National Day 7-day Golden Week actually only allows 3 extra days of vacation with pay after discounting Saturday, Sunday and October 1.

For a society that shows great anxiety over ‘people flow’, as much as the Golden Weeks create economic opportunities, they also to a certain extent create negative stimulants. They are like a heated ball game - they cheer the businesses and the consumers. People flows give businesses the satisfaction of profit-making, while at the same time exerting great pressure on them on the provision of services. Nobody can provide a normal standard of services that can also cater to enormous people flows that happen three times a year. This will inevitably put businesses in a temporary state of emergency during the Golden Weeks, and the quality of services rendered to consumers cannot but be sub-par during such times.

For those who are testing the water with their proposal, this might seem a big psychological gap between a merrily expecting mood and huge disillusionment. In the event of large crowds gathering, such disillusionment exploding into mob rage is not impossible. In every Golden Week there is always a potential danger of unhappy moving crowds exhibiting public rage. Thus Golden Weeks can easily become crisis-prone periods. Discontent on the consumption front can easily be associated with social discontent. Perhaps, this is the last ‘vote’ on approving the vacation system adjustment proposal.

In any case, while raging about the poor service quality during Golden Weeks and the need to protect historic heritage sites, people should also mull over whether a possible solution should be in the form of cutting back on welfare or ensuring it. If the problem is to be solved by cutting back on welfare, then the solution would be to spread holidays of Golden Weeks to other festive days like Mid-Autumn Festival and Tuen Ng Festival. Such a solution may not cut the total number of holidays with pay, but it definitely lessens choices for workers. If the problem is to be solved by ensuring welfare, the solution would be to keep the current Golden Weeks intact, while legalizing vacation with pay. This way, people will be allowed to choose freely when to take their vacation and when to make their travel plans.

Even before a lot of questions have a chance of being debated, there are already talks that ‘discussions are at the final stage’ and ‘only waiting to be considered and approved by the National People’s Congress’. Isn’t this a little too ‘forcing people’s hand’?”

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