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China Focus: Lack of leisure leaves Chinese languid


19:15, February 20, 2013

BEIJING, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."

Although the Western proverb is familiar to 28-year-old Wen, he said he would rather be a "dull boy."

Wen has been working in a securities company in east China's Shandong province for two years. But he has never taken his paid annual leave of five days.

"We complain about this privately. But no one wants to be the first to express a desire to take a vacation," Wen said resignedly.

Wen was referring to the general fear of leaving a bad impression on one's boss by taking paid annual leave, particularly at a time when it is more difficult than ever for new college grads to find jobs.

According to a state regulation which became effective in 2008, employees of government departments, social organizations, enterprises and private businesses are entitled to paid annual leave if they work for a consecutive period of more than one year. For example, one is eligible for five days of paid annual leave if one cumulatively worked from one to ten years.

On Monday, the government announced a new program for promoting domestic tourism, stating that the paid annual leave system will have been basically implemented by 2020.

However, a great deal of work needs to be done. A report jointly issued by the National Tourism Administration and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) in June 2011 stated that one-third of Beijing residents surveyed by both groups said that they have not taken annual paid leave.

"Leisure and work are equally important. Being relaxed leads to better work performance," said Yu Fenggui, deputy director of Shandong's provincial tourism bureau.

"Chinese live tiring lives. Cases of death resulting from poor health and depression are increasing and becoming a big social problem," said Yu.

But employees face practical difficulties in enjoying their right to annual leave.

"I have worked for seven years, asking only once for a five-day leave to get married. This is common among people of my age," said Jia Minli, a woman from east China's Zhejiang province.

"People tend to think of other colleagues when it comes to working extra hours or taking annual leave," said Jia.

"If others are working extra hours, you must do the same. If your boss does not take annual leave, you might feel awkward about applying for leave. Applying for leave is like becoming indebted to others," she said.

Many companies do not offer opportunities to employees to take their annual leave. Workers in some factories even have no weekends.

"I really want everyone to take their annual leave. But our business is very difficult. If they all take annual paid leave, the factory will face losses," said Liu Ming, general manager of a packaging plant in the city of Xiamen in east China's Fujian province.

Cheng Xuelin, a lawyer in Zhejiang, said a surplus of labor has created more competition and left workers feeling less confident about protecting their right to paid leave.

Many employees mistakenly think annual leave can affect production. On the contrary, if a company manager encourages workers to take annual leave, it can lead to greater solidarity and higher efficiency, according to Cheng.

It will take a long time to realize the full implementation of paid annual leave regulations in China, said Wei Xiao'an, a tourism researcher with the CASS.

Wei said even developed nations have spent decades developing and implementing their paid annual leave systems.

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