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Productivity doesn't depend on fewer holidays

By Duc Hung   March 27, 2022 | 04:41 pm PT
Productivity doesn't depend on fewer holidays
A group of Vietnamese people goes camping. Photo by VnExpress/Cathy Chan
More holidays, less productivity. Our bosses keep drumming this. Not true. In fact, fewer work hours make people more efficient and spend quality time on things that matter.

We have seven days off in April, followed by three months with no holiday.

In accordance with the nation's labor laws, the upcoming Hung Kings Festival on April 10 falls on a Sunday, meaning workers will get a day off the following Monday. The Reunification Day and Labor Day holidays on April 30 and May 1 also fall on weekends this year, meaning two more weekdays off for a total of seven days.

This might seem like a lot, but hold on to your horses. The seven days off already include weekends, and for the next three months, you will get no holiday. Imagine three months of constant work; the thought alone tires me out.

Vietnam has 22 national days off a year, which is considered low compared to other countries, not just in terms of quantity, but also in terms of frequency. These holidays are not distributed evenly.

There is this argument that until workers in Vietnam achieve the same level of productivity and efficiency as peers elsewhere, we shouldn't have as many holidays as they do.

"We're still poor so we need to work harder," goes this argument. I disagree. My argument is that fewer working hours would result in greater productivity because people will have more time to rest and recover.

Right now, several companies in Vietnam still require employees to work on Saturday. Somehow, the workload that was supposed to be contained within weekdays has extended to the weekends. If people get their Saturdays off, perhaps things would have turned out differently. It's the same as limiting overtime. If we keep adding more hours to our jobs, the work would just go on and on. But if there're fewer work hours, people would have to manage their time and workload better, forcing them to become more efficient and finish the job on time.

The truth is that modern productivity relies a lot on technologies and machinery that are capable of handling work at a level that humans cannot compete with. Vietnam is still largely dependent on manual labor, so it's natural that our productivity doesn't match that of more developed countries with better automation. This is like comparing a clockmaker with a clock-making assembly line. This productivity argument, in my opinion, is null and void.

If people only get their Sundays off, they would be more likely to stay home and rest before another work week. Fewer people would go to malls or travel or do anything else, just because they don't have the energy to do it. this means less spending and a less active economy, which isn't good for business, especially for those in the service and entertainment industries.

Is it any wonder that so many people are burnt out at 40? We have no time to rest and can't afford to make more time. Is this the ideal situation we are aspiring to?

Our younger generations face so many burdens today, both at work and at home. Their hectic work lives prevent them from settling down and starting a family, leading to an aging population and falling productivity. Is that where we should be heading?

The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted many to rethink their priorities. Do we live to work or work to live? Is crunching hours for fatter paychecks really worth it? I believe this is the time for us to readjust. More holidays, both weekends off. Even if there's no guarantee that we would become more productive this way, most of us would be happier, right?

Isn't this what life's hullabaloo all about? Becoming happier?

 
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