A machine factory in Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. (File photo/Xinhua)
China offers its working population the world's lowest amount of paid leave, according to a survey conducted by CNN, and many workers in the private sector and labor-intensive industries said they never take the leave due to them in any case on account of their heavy workload, fierce competition and even fear that they could lose their job.
Liu Ti from Shanghai said she traveled with her family during last week's Golden Week national holidays but has to spend her time alone when she has paid leave since her children are at school. She cannot take time off during the summer because it would clash with her coworkers' leave; furthermore, her boss only approves paid leave of two to three days at a time, so she is not able to travel far, according to a piece in People's Daily.
Xiao Cheng, who has worked at a software company for more than a year, said he has never used his annual entitlement of five days of paid leave due to his busy schedule. His boss may approve leave but his projects, which usually take at least six months, have prevented him from taking it. He can only travel or arrange other activities during the National Day or Spring Festival holidays, which have become a compulsory vacation time for him.
CNN found that Brazil and Lithuania grant the highest number of days of annual paid leave. Brazil offers annual paid leave of 30 days in addition to 11 public holidays, while Lithuania has 28 days paid leave and 13 public holidays. The United States and Singapore both have a combined 25 days of annual paid vacation and public holidays.
Many workers in China said the 21 days of paid leave and national holidays to which they are supposedly entitled each year exist only in theory. Many are unable to take the day off during legal national holidays such as the Mid-Autumn Festival and Children's Day. A netizen going by the name "Shang Wo Wo" questioned how many workers under the age of 30 ever get to take their ten days of annual leave, according to People's Daily.
Although Chinese law grants employees the right to take annual paid leaves, less than 30% are able to avail themselves of it. People's Daily found that small and private businesses cannot afford to let staff take time off because of the need to stay competitive.
Sectors that need highly skilled workers also often skip holidays. Bank staff frequently work overtime and dare not take time off for fear it will disrupt the company's performance and their own career, according to People's Daily.
Workers in labor-intensive industries might not even know what paid leave is. A cleaner working at a logistics company in Beijing said she risked losing her job to take time off in order to visit her dying father in her hometown.
Many companies have difficulties allowing their staff to take paid leave and some of them do not offer compensation to staff who cannot take the holiday due to them. Employees' fears that taking leave might jeopardize their future reflects a power imbalance between employers and staff, according to Yang Naichao, a lawyer from Lanpeng Law Firm in Beijing, according to People's Daily.