Experts call for fixed, earlier Tet break

By Phuong Loan   September 28, 2023 | 03:34 pm PT
Experts call for fixed, earlier Tet break
Drivers carrying ornament plants for Tet decoration get stuck in a traffic jam in Hanoi two days before the new lunar year, January 19, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh
Experts said the Lunar New Year holiday should start earlier and be fixed every year to create more flexibility for laborers and businesses.

For many years, the Tet holiday has started one or two days before the new lunar year kicks in and lasted for around one week or nine days if it is included with days as compensation for the weekend.

Every year, the Ministry of Labors, Invalids and Social Affairs would have to make proposals several months before the next new lunar year and wait for feedback from related agencies before submitting the final plan to the government for approval.

Bui Hoai Son, a standing member of the National Assembly's Culture and Education Committee, said that as the most important holiday of the year and the biggest family reunion occasion of Vietnamese people, it is "late" for the Tet break to start just one or two days before the new lunar year.

He said it would create inefficiency as there is no time for laborers to get prepared, especially those who are migrant laborers, and by that time, not many of them could stay focused on their jobs.

For generations, Vietnamese people have started to get prepared for the Tet holiday from the 23rd day of the final lunar month, or a week before the new year, when they perform a ritual to send the Kitchen Gods back to heaven as a belief that the gods will report everything that has happened in the family to the Jade Emperor over the past year.

"Looking at both aspects of traditional culture and the real-life impacts, it is reasonable for policymakers to change their thinking to make the Tet break start earlier and last longer," he said.

For this year, the labor ministry last Friday presented a plan with two options for the upcoming Tet break that will fall in February next year.

Both options grant laborers a seven-day break, with one starting one day before Tet and the other two days before.

The ministry is now at the step of collecting feedback from related agencies to complete the plan.

A representative of the Ministry of Transport said when the holiday starts close to the new lunar year, it always causes great pressure on the mass transport system, and passengers always have to pay higher fares.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Duc Loc, Director of the Social Life Research Institute, said that ministries and departments have to sit down to discuss and decide the Tet break every year is "a waste of time and a mere formality," while business owners need to proactively arrange their production chain.

He said in reality, the implementation of Tet holiday regulations has remained inconsistent as many laborers ask to leave work earlier to return home several days before the break officially starts.

Loc suggested that the Tet break should be fixed every year.

Ha Tat Thang, head of the labor ministry's Bureau of Work Safety, said it is difficult to fix the break because the Labor Code stipulates only five days of official leave for the Lunar New Year and the ministry has always had to arrange it in a way to add the weekends or compensation days if the five official days fall on the weekends.

He said it is a "principle" for the ministry to ask for opinions from other ministries and departments because the break would affect many agencies and workers.

An online survey by VnExpress of 9,500 respondents last year found that 93% wanted to start the Tet break three days before the new lunar year kicks in.

Vietnam has 11 official days off for holidays and festivals a year. Foreigners working in Vietnam would get an extra day off for their traditional New Year holiday, and another day off for their countries' National Day holiday.

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