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Paid leave seen as tourism boost

By Wang Xiaodong and Jin Haixing (China Daily)

07:49, February 19, 2013

Better enforcement is the key to ensure almost all workers in China enjoy paid leave by 2020, a target set by the top tourism authority, experts said.

The Outline for National Tourism and Leisure, issued by the China National Tourism Administration on Monday, includes measures such as reducing entrance fees of scenic spots and improving tourism and leisure infrastructure and accessibility.

The outline aims to meet increasing demands for tourism and leisure while promoting the development of the tourism and leisure industry, said Zhu Shanzhong, deputy director of the China National Tourism Administration.

Paid annual leave, instead of giving three week-long national holidays a year, is regarded by economists as the right way to boost the domestic tourism and leisure industries.

"We have seen scenic spots crowded with tourists and some hot spots even fall into disorder during long holidays," said Li Kefu, a senior researcher in tourism at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"Paid leave can help divert tourists and better meet their diversified needs, as they can have more than 200 days each year to choose as days off," he said.

According to a regulation endorsed by the State Council in 2008, workers can enjoy five days of paid leave a year after working 12 months. People who have worked more than 10 years can enjoy 10 days of paid leave and workers who have worked 20 years and longer get 15 days.

But the holiday system is not well implemented.

A survey by China Youth Daily last year, which polled more than 2,400 people, found 55 percent had never enjoyed paid leave from work, and only 22 percent said they could enjoy fully paid leave every year.

Wang Nan, 37, a manager at an e-commerce startup in Jiaxing of Zhejiang province, said: "We don't have paid annual leave in our company since we are only a startup and everything is not mature enough."

The outline said that supervision and inspection will be intensified to enforce paid leaves, and more legal aid should be provided to protect workers' rights to rest.

Efforts will be given to make sure that employees of small private businesses can enjoy the rights, it said.

Jiang Ying, a labor law professor at the China Institute of Industrial Relations, said paid leave is mostly absent at non-public corporations, especially at small and medium-sized enterprises.

"Many workers think that paid leave is only welfare and they do not realize that actually, it's their legitimate right," she said.

Jiang also partly contributes worker's lack of paid leave to labor authorities' inefficiency in supervision.

Li Jianfei, a law professor with Renmin University of China, said that the poor implementation is partly due to the fact that there is no detailed punishment for employers who fail to guarantee paid leave.

In addition, workers lack a channel to effectively safeguard their rights to annual paid leaves, Li Jianfei said.

Better implementation of paid annual leave will also benefit overseas destinations as tourists have more time for travel, said Jiang Yiyi, a researcher with the International Tourism Development Institute at China Tourism Academy.

Meanwhile, the outline hopes to encourage more tourists to make domestic trips by urging that entrance fees be stabilized and then lowered.

Experts believe that it is difficult for fees at many attractions to be reduced by a large margin in the near future.

"Many tourist attractions are operated by private companies, which run for profit," said Li Xinjian, an associate professor in tourism studies at Beijing International Studies University.

"More financial support from government is needed for sustainable development of the tourism industry," he said.

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