[Editorial] Substitute holidays

2013-04-21 20:32

Beginning next year, the nation is most likely to have a substitute holiday when a national holiday falls on a Sunday. The Committee on Security and Public Administration of the National Assembly, whose subcommittee approved the underlying bill Friday, is scheduled to make a final decision in a plenary session Tuesday.

Barring the unexpected, committee members say, the committee will pass the bill, overriding opposition from the cost-conscious business community. With substitute holidays set to be introduced, they say the committee will throw out a pending bill on declaring Parents Day and Constitution Day as new national holidays.

Under the bill awaiting its passage, each of the three-day Lunar New Year and Chuseok holidays would be extended to a four-day holidays when Lunar New Year’s Day or Chuseok falls on a Saturday or a Sunday. For instance, when Chuseok falls on a Saturday, the nation would take the preceding Thursday off, and it would take the coming Tuesday off when it falls on a Sunday.

Substitute holidays are long overdue. In November 2009, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism proposed to boost tourism by introducing substitute holidays. In addition to improving quality of life, the ministry said, the proposed additional holidays would create jobs for 100,000 people.

However, the debate on substitute holidays was stymied by strong opposition from the business community, which said it would be burdened by a huge amount of additional holiday pay and lower productivity.

The Korea Employers Federation is making the same argument this time. But it should be reminded that an average Korean works far more hours than his OECD counterparts ― 2,116 hours per year compared with the OECD average of 1,693.

Few would say the government is overly ambitious when it promises to cut the yearly working hours to 1,800 by 2020. The nation should be made to grow out of what is dubbed “workaholism” if President Park Geun-hye is to make good on her promise to improve the quality of life and make all people happier. Moreover, the long hours of work do not raise labor productivity.

As the Economic and Social Development Commission recommends, the legislature will have to write substitute holidays into law without any delay. Without them in place, the government can hardly reduce the yearly work hours to 1,800 by the target year of 2020.
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