New holiday rules seek to drive up consumption writes Steve Wang, Asia Sentinel

In an effort to increase consumer participation in China’s economy, the government is setting out radical changes in the way the country goes on vacation.

It is an intriguing attempt at social engineering. By ordering staggered vacation days to force workers to take their trips after peak season, the government aspires not only to put more of its hard-working people on holiday longer, but also to put behind the country the dizzying images of crowds of tens of thousands of people overflowing train stations and sightseeing spots during Golden Week and the Spring Festival.

Pic: Asia Sentinel.

Thus to better accommodate this large and accelerating economic force, the State Council has just released its 2013-2020 “National Tourism and Leisure Outline,” which aims to alter the way China takes time off.

China has been attempting to shift to a consumer economy, an enormously difficult task in a country where most families supplement an inadequate social safety net by saving as much as 50 percent of their annual incomes for retirement, medical care in the absence of insurance, schooling for children and other indispensable needs. Modifying the holiday schedule is a relatively modest attempt to put more consumer money into the economy.

However, workers coming back after this year’s Spring Festival celebration, according to the 2013 national holiday schedule set by the State Council, need to work seven consecutive days starting this past Saturday before taking a rest.

After that the cabinet’s General Office has greatly modified this year’s calendar to extend holidays by scheduling make-up days on Saturdays and Sundays. In 2013, China’s workers will report for duty on a total of 12 weekend days, compared with just seven last year. The rationale for this grand orchestration is to boost domestic consumption by encouraging more to go on longer trips that directly lift travel spending. The state-owned Xinhua News Agency in a recent dispatch, highlighted the domestic tourism market in China as the largest of its kind in the world, with the tourist-flow count (number of travelers times number of trips) reaching nearly three billion – in a country of 1.3 billion people – in 2012 and showing no signs of letting up.

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