Last Friday, the U.S. website CNN released a list ranking 39 countries by the length of guaranteed paid holidays. Brazil and Lithuania topped the list with 41 days, while China ranked last with 21 days.
According to CNN, an ordinary Chinese employee who has worked five days a week for 10 years will enjoy 10 minimum paid vacation days and 11 public holidays every year. But many Chinese suspect the real number of days off given is much lower.
Mr. Gao works for a Beijing-based design firm. He said his company grants paid vacation days to employees who have worked there for more than five years, but none of the eligible workers have ever taken a vacation. Sometimes, they even have to work overtime on weekends. "I really want to take a vacation, but I don't dare ask my boss, because none of my colleagues have done that before," Mr. Gao said.
Ms. Wang works for a private entertainment company. She said her colleagues once worked on a program for three months straight. When the program was about to end, the boss said those who wanted to take a vacation could send him a text message, but the rest must continue to work as usual. Days later, Ms Wang found those who asked for a rest were fired.
According to a report released this year by the National Tourism Administration and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, 33.1 percent of workers in Beijing said they had never enjoyed paid vacation days and 17.85 percent said they frequently worked on weekends.
The report showed economic concerns had a strong influence on one's decision to take time off. More than 80 percent of the survey respondents said they were willing to give up vacation days to continue working and earn more money.
Human resources experts said many people give up vacation days to keep their job. Although China's labor law has stipulations on paid vacation days, the regulations are not effectively enforced. Experts said that unless this attitude changes, employees in China will have little say with employers for the foreseeable future.
It's the peak summer travel time right now in China. But according to a travel agency in Beijing, most of the tourists are housewives, the elderly and school children. The lack of paid vacation days forces most working class Chinese to travel on the National Day holiday, which lasts seven days. This leads to price hikes in everything from airplane tickets to hotel rooms. If people could take vacations at different times, their trips would be much more convenient and provide a big stimulus to the development of China's leisure economy, the travel agency said.
In developed countries, people spend one-third of their time and revenue on leisure activities. One-third of the labor force in advanced economies works in the leisure industries, producing on average about a third of their gross national product.