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June 24, 2017

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Cabinet considers plans to increase number of national holidays

TAIPEI--In a bid to give a hard-working nation the "simple pleasure" of time-off, Premier Jiang Yi-huah has given vague support to the idea of increasing the number of public holidays in Taiwan.

The Cabinet is considering three proposals, the first of which is designating the Lunar New Year holiday as nine days each year, regardless of which day it begins and ends, he told lawmakers on Tuesday.

The other two options are making up holidays that get "eaten up" by weekends on the preceding or following weekdays, or making widely observed celebrations like Christmas and the Lantern Festival (Yuanxiao Festival) into national holidays.

Jiang set mid-March for a cross-agency discussion of the proposals, adding however that "it would be impossible to implement all three" at once.

Any move to increase holidays is likely to be received well by local workers, who next year will have to sit at their offices watching as every single national holiday from late February on lands on a Saturday or Sunday.

Taiwan has 11 annual days of public vacation, but in 2015, only New Year's Day on Jan. 1 and the Lunar New Year in mid-February fall on weekdays.

That means the total number of weekends and holidays over the year will come to only 109, which Deputy Interior Minister Hsiao Chia-chi noted is fewer than in many countries.

Workers in Japan and South Korea, for example, each enjoy 119 days off, while Hong Kong and Singapore have at least 115 days off, he said.

For a country where salaries have barely budged from 15 years ago and death from overwork is not unheard of, more vacation time is a welcome respite.

Perhaps predictably, the response from business leaders has been more mixed.

General Chamber of Commerce President Lai Cheng-i called the proposals a reasonable way to make up for an unfortunate calendar, saying that he believed most employers will sympathize with their workers.

On the other side of the spectrum, Tsai Lien sheng, secretary-general of Taiwan's Chinese National Federation of Industries, argued that workers do not care about getting time off as long as they have a job, adding that a single day off for them is money lost for a company.

Contrary to the numbers given by the interior ministry, Tsai claimed that Taiwanese workers already enjoy "more holidays than (workers in) neighboring rival countries" without offering specifics.

Travel businesses, at least, seemed excited by the idea of more domestic spending in the service industry.

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