Vietnam weighs record-long Lunar New Year break

By VnExpress   October 18, 2016 | 09:00 am PT
Vietnam weighs record-long Lunar New Year break
A Vietnamese woman, wearing the traditional “ao dai” long dress, poses for photos along peach blossom flowers ahead of the Vietnamese Tet (Lunar New Year), in a field in Hanoi, Vietnam, February 2, 2016. Photo by Reuters/Kham
State employees could for the first time have 10 days off for the Tet holiday.

The labor ministry has proposed two options that could for the first time grant state employees 10 days off for the upcoming Lunar New Year (Tetholiday.

Under the first option, government offices and state-owned companies will close for seven days from January 26 to February 1.

The longer 10-day option would start on January 27, the last day of the current Lunar New Year, and end on February 5. However, under this option offices will have to stay open on Saturday, February 11 to make up for the day off on Friday, February 3. 

Schools and other businesses in the country usually follow the same break as government offices.

The upcoming Year of the Rooster will peak on January 28, and is the biggest holiday in Vietnam.

The government approved a 9-day break last year. If a 10-day break goes through this year, it would be the longest in years, but some are not thrilled by the idea.

Lao Dong (Labor) newspaper, under the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor, said many people are worried they won't have enough time to prepare for the festival if they are only allowed to leave work the day before the new year. In previous years, the holiday break started three to four days prior to New Year's Day.

The festival is a time for family reunions in Vietnam and is usually a time for migrant workers to travel home before the Lunar New Year Eve.

Ho Hai Quan, who works with his wife in Hanoi, said he was “shocked” at the possibility of the record-long break.

Quan said he is worried that there will not be enough time for him to travel home to Nghe An Province, which is 290 kilometers to the south of Hanoi.

Le Nho Luong, a labor union chairman at an industrial zone in Binh Duong Province near Ho Chi Minh City, said the 10-day holiday would not help workers.

Luong said factory workers, most of them migrants, usually receive their salaries and holiday bonuses on the last working day of the year, which they use to buy tickets and gifts to travel home.

“If the workers have to work too close to the holiday, they won’t be able to focus and won’t be productive,” he told Lao Dong.

Critics of longer Tet breaks argue that a protracted holiday is no longer suitable for the modern economy of a country where the average annual income was $2,100 last year, according to the World Bank.

The frenzy of consumerism that has emerged around Tet is not a good thing, they say.

The labor ministry has also submitted public holiday plans for the rest of 2017, including two options for the Hung Kings' Festival, the day to commemorate the death of the kings considered to be the founders of Vietnam. 

The break could be just for a day on Thursday, April 6 (the 10th day of the third lunar calendar month). The other option preferred by the ministry is a four-day break including a weekend, but workers would need to make up for the Friday off on the Saturday the week after. 

Other public holidays in 2017 include the New Year (December 31, 2016 to January 2, 2017), Reunification Day and Labor Day (April 29 to May 2), and Independence Day (September 2 - 4)

If both shorter options for Tet and the Hung Kings' Festival apply, there will be in total 18 days of public holidays in 2017. Under the longer options, that number will go up to 24. 

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