Every worker enjoys a public holiday. What’s not to like about getting paid to not go to work? While few employers begrudge their staff a day off every now and then, in a global market the pressure on employers to maintain a professional level of service with staff frequently absent is intense.
At the same time, while some government’s appear inclined to proclaim additional public holidays to mark a new event, occasion, or just to boost popularity with scant regard for the commercial implications of their decisions, others judiciously calculate the expected boost to the national economy from increased leisure spending, and even sweeten the enticement for people to spend, spend, spend by throwing in limited time tax incentives.
Globally the country where workers will receive the most number of paid days off work in 2018 is Nepal where there is 37 nationally celebrated public holidays this year. However, two of these are observed by female workers only, with one additional day observed only by the civil service. Of the remaining 34 public holidays for 2018, 27 days fall on a weekday, with two of those days observed by the followers of two religions for one day each only.
Despite the injustice of public holidays falling on a weekend Nepalese workers will still receive 26 paid weekday holidays in 2018, though Nepalese foreign missions will only close for 18 days.
Cambodia: Asean’s Hub For Public Holidays
Widely regarded as having the second most number of public holidays annually, the 18 gazetted, plus two additional days able to be chosen from a list of 31 ‘restricted holidays’ sees India relegated to sixth place, far behind the 25 paid weekdays off work Cambodian workers will be paid for in 2018 from its list of 28 public holidays this year.
Bringing up second place in Asean are workers in Myanmar which has 26 public holidays scheduled for this year, 22 of which fall on a weekday. In third place for the total number of paid days off work in 2018 are workers in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia who will be paid for 19 weekday public holidays in 2018, from a total of 24, 23, and 21 public holidays respectively.
Next enjoying paid days off work are employees in Lao PDR who in 2018 will receive 11 weekday public holidays out of a total of 11 listed public holidays, followed by workers in Malaysia, Vietnam, and Singapore, who will receive ten paid public holidays falling on a weekday, out of a total of 12, 12, and 11 public holidays respectively.
When coupled with the 18 days of annual leave Cambodians who work a six-day week receive and in 2018 Cambodian workers will receive 43 paid days off work in 2018; Forty days paid leave for those who work a 40 hour week.
In distant second place with 25 per cent fewer paid days off in 2018 than Cambodia is Myanmar where workers this year will receive 32 paid weekdays off work, followed by workers in Indonesia, Lao PDR, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam, who will receive 31, 26, 25, 24, and 22 paid weekday holidays in 2018 respectively.
Getting the least number of weekday paid holidays in 2018 are workers in Malaysia and Singapore where in the first year workers will get 18 and 17 days paid holidays in 2018 respectively.
While the number of paid national holidays will fluctuate depending on what days they fall on each year, in some countries it makes little difference. In Thailand if a public holiday falls on a weekend it is rolled over to the next working day, while such only happens to public holidays falling on a Sunday in Cambodia. In Singapore and Indonesia it’s bad luck for workers, with public holidays falling on a weekend not being substituted for with a weekday.
Cambodia’s Expensive Low Cost Labour
At Cambodia’s minimum wage for garment industry workers up until the end of 2017 of US$153 per month the paid public holidays and annual leave costs for a Cambodian worker employed 48-hours a week total $243, or $266 for employees who work a 40-hour per week.
Add to this the compulsory National Social Security Fund (NSSF) medical cover charge of $5.81 per month, or $69.72 per year (at 2017 minimum wage), seven days of ‘special holiday’ allowance at full pay to attend the death of relatives, births, and marriages and the real cost per Cambodia employee is already approaching $32 per month for those working a 40 hour week; without any consideration being given for up to 30 days a year of paid sick leave at full pay and up to an additional 60 days at 60 per cent of normal wages. Suddenly Cambodia’s so-called ‘cheap labour’ is becoming fairly expensive.
According to Dr Mengly J. Quach, a social affairs commentator and founder, chairman, and ceo of the Mengly J. Quach Education, “there are too many holidays in Cambodia and it is upsetting foreign investors.
Manufacturers look to the Asean region, specifically the CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam) countries for cheap production costs. Cambodia has been dramatically increasing its labour costs, causing concerns for investors”, Mr Quach said.
Update: This story was last updated at 12:20 on February 22, 2018
On February 20, 2018 Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen declared May 20 as an additional public holiday — ‘National Day of Remembrance’ — in memory of victims of the April 17, 1975 to January 6, 1979 reign of the Khmer Rouge, when Cambodia was formally known as the Democratic Kampuchea, of which the Prime Minister was a officer. The story has been amended to include the additional holiday
- Unhappy holidays for Cambodia’s economy? (The Phnom Penh Post)
- Working With Cambodia’s Numerous Official Public Holidays (B2B-Cambodia)
- Cambodia: Manufacturing Relocation Opportunities (2) (Hong Kong Means Business)
- Cambodia Aims Higher in Manufacturing Sector (VOA)
John Le Fevre in Phnom Penh contributed to this report