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'Staycation'

(Global Times)

09:52, August 16, 2011

For 10 years, Li Shu has been living in Hebei Province and is looking forward to using his paid annual leave to visit his family in Shaanxi Province. But the 37-year-old is not optimistic he will be able to make the trip, and for good reason.

Since Li began the job in 2006, he has never been permitted to take his paid vacation.

"According to the law we are entitled to our paid vacation, but people seldom get it as work is always busy," Li told the Global Times. "No one appears willing to complain because there are hundreds of applicants vying for our positions on the job market."

According to regulations for paid annual leave that took effect January 1, 2008, an employer may only cancel an employee's vacation with the consent of the employee. During the extra time the employee works, they are to be paid 300 percent of their daily wage.

Li said he hasn't seen that extra money either.

"We've never get any compensation for our cancelled paid leave," Li said.

In neighboring Shandong Province, authorities issued a paid leave policy earlier this month, which was referred to as "the first outline of a national leisure plan in China" by the Xinhua News Agency.

The outline aims to stimulate consumption and expand domestic tourism demand.

At present, people in developed countries spend one-third of their time on leisure and pour another one-third of their income into leisure, according to Yu Chong, president of the Shandong Provincial Tourism Bureau.

One-third of those in developed countries work in the leisure industry, creating one-third of the GDP for their countries, he said.

"Let the people work hard during their eight hours at work, spend eight hours at leisure and have a good rest when it's time to rest," Yu was quoted by the Jinan Times as saying.

A national leisure plan is nothing new in China.

In 2007, the National Tourism Administration announced it would encourage some areas to establish a national tourism plan for the first time, Guangzhou-based Nanfang Daily reported.

The same year the administration said the plan could be tried in some provinces including Guangdong, Shandong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang.

In an effort to encourage people to take leave and spend money as tourists, some provinces began a coupon system to lure people into poorer rural areas to spend money, according to Nanfang Daily.

"Implementing paid vacation is good for ensuring workers' rights," Shen Bingti, a Beijing lawyer specializing in labor law, told the Global Times.

"It will improve the relationship between employers and employees. It enhances employee loyalty. Paid vacation ensures productivity and good morale."

China, as a developing country, still has a long way to go to reach the same standards of developed countries, Shen said.

In global paid vacation rankings released by CNN on July 30, China's total paid holidays were 21 days, listing last out of 39 countries.

The top two are Brazil and Lithuania who get 41 days of vacation a year. Japan has 36 paid holidays, ranking in the top 9 and the US, with 25 days, is the second from the bottom.

In China, the annual leave is five days for employees who have worked fewer than 10 years; 10 days for employees who have worked between 10 and 20 years; and 15 days for employees who have worked for 20 years or more, according to the Regulations on Paid Annual Leave for Employees.

However, the paid vacation system does not appear to be enforced in China, especially in small- and medium-sized enterprises and among migrant workers.

"Most of the companies have no lawyer or legal affairs office and their workers are not familiar with labor laws and don't know how to safeguard their rights," Shen said. "Many workers even hope to work overtime to make more money and get more jobs."

The plans are not useful for medium- and small-sized enterprises without the means to fulfill paid leave requirements, Su Hainan, a vice president of the China Association for Labor Studies, told the Global Times.

"The most important task for them is survival."

Wang Jiaoyue, a vice president of an IT company in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, often wonders if she should offer her staff more benefits, such as social security and paid annual vacation.

"I know such benefits are good for attracting talent," Wang told the Global Times. "But we have financing difficulties that prevent our ability to implement the regulation."

Wang informs candidates during job interviews the company can't offer paid annual vacations and most applicants say they will accept the condition because of a tight job market.

"If paid annual vacation is thrust upon all small companies, we will have to close our business," she said.

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