We can’t afford more national holidays: corporate leaders

Businesses, and the nation itself, cannot pay for more national holidays given Vietnam’s low labor productivity and relatively underdeveloped status, corporate leaders argue.

Dang Van Son, vice president and general secretary of the Vietnam Pulp and Paper Association (VPPA), said: "No business would want to have three more days added."

"The proposal by the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor (VGCL) to create three new holidays is not practical now since Vietnam's labor productivity is already low and its economy is not as developed as its neighbors," he told VnExpress.

Moreover, Son added, for business owners it would be a double whammy since they would have to pay extra to employees working during those holidays.

By law, wages during weekends are at least 200 percent of normal rates, and they rise to at least 300 percent during holidays.

Nguyen Xuan Duong, chairman of Hung Yen Province's Business Association and owner of a garment business, said: "Vietnam has a decent number of days off already with 22 days - 12 days of paid leave a year and 10 public holidays - in total. It could be a huge challenge for businesses if the three additional holidays fall during the harvest period."

A majority of Vietnamese businesses pay high wages for seasonal workers, he explained. The end of the year is the peak time for the electronics sector too, and it coincides with the peak fishing season, he said.

Duong noted that the current number of working days is 305, meaning the three days off would shave off 1 percent of the total working time.

"Vietnam has set a future economic growth target of over 7 percent to catch up with other countries in the region. But if we proceed with the proposal, the development gap with other countries will widen."

Earlier this month, the VGCL proposed adding three days to the public holiday calendar with two options for how it could be done.

One is to extend the Independence Day holiday on September 2 by three more days until September 5, the day the new school year starts. The other is to have a three-day break for the New Year (January 1-3) and declaring Vietnamese Family Day on June 28 as a public holiday.

The VGCL called for increasing the number of holidays a year, saying Vietnam's is the lowest in Southeast Asia at 10, while Cambodia has 28, Thailand and Indonesia have 16, Brunei 15, Malaysia 14, and Singapore 11.

81 percent of around 1,300 workers in an online survey conducted this month by the confederation voted to reduce the workweek from 48 hours to 44.

Vice chairman of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), Hoang Quang Phong, said the confederation’s proposal is not feasible since its previous proposal of reducing regular working hours and increasing the annual overtime cap has yet to be achieved.

Business executives said the VGCL's argument is fallacious since Vietnam's productivity is the lowest in the region, its population is the world’s 15th largest but per capita GDP is only 131st highest.

"Having more holidays is not recommended when productivity and economy are poor. Its per capita income is not half of Thailand’s or a quarter of China and others," he said.

"The issue should be looked at from an economic perspective."

National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan ordered a study into the socioeconomic impacts of the proposal.

The confederation is set to submit its recommendation to the National Assembly next month.

vnexpress

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