All companies urged to give their staff day offLobby groups are urging all local companies to allow their employees to take an unofficial day off next Friday to boost the local economy.
The move follows the government’s decision to designating next Friday as a temporary holiday as a substitute for Independence Day that falls on Saturday, Aug. 15.
Six major lobby groups, including the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI) and Korea Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI), said Wednesday they will encourage local companies to give their staff the day off, as having a long weekend could help improve the local economy which has had difficulty attracting consumers due to the impact of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) outbreak .
The government announced the Aug. 14 temporary holiday to commemorate the country’s 70th anniversary of independence and to revitalize the local tour businesses and slumping economy. The government said an extra holiday will lead to an improvement in domestic consumption of about 1.3 trillion won ($1.1 billion).
However, as the day is not an official holiday, individual companies can choose whether or not they will allow their staff to benefit.
Among the nation’s major conglomerates, Samsung Group, Hyundai Motor, LG Group, Doosan Group and SK Telecom have decided to let their employees take the break.
“The nation’s overall export declined for six months in a row and the local economy was impacted by the MERS outbreak in the past few months,” said FKI in a statement.
“But designating next Friday as a holiday would boost consumers’ spending at public places including retail discount supermarkets, shopping malls and movie theaters in town during a three-day weekend.
“And since many families will be able to join diverse types of events organized to commemorate the Independence Day, it will be helpful to bring a more positive air into the country that has been suffering from slumping economy and the MERS virus.”
According to Statistics Korea, the nation’s consumption shrank in June after the deadly MERS outbreak. Retail sales plunged 3.7 percent from a month earlier while the output of service industries sank 1.7 percent.
Leisure, sports and art sales were also down 13.5 percent from a month earlier and lodging and restaurants fell by 9.9 percent, respectively, as people were afraid of venturing out to public places.
But the government’s move has been criticized as it was announced only about a week before the holiday falls. The lack of notification might make it possible for only people working at big conglomerates and government offices to be able to enjoy the holiday.
“If the government really wanted to encourage businesses to let their employees take an extra day off, they [should have] announced the plan at least a month before the holiday,” said Kim Jung-baek, professor of social studies at Kyunghee University.
“People who can take such sudden holidays are the ones who are financially stable. If people who have to work on the holiday see others taking a break, they won’t feel happy.”
Kim Young-hwan, who runs a car parts design company with 30 employees, said: “Most mid and small size companies worked when major conglomerates and government offices were off in previous temporary holidays, because many of them live from hand to mouth.”
“Should I say thank you to the president for this?” said Lee Kuk-nam, a worker at a leather goods company. “I might only [be grateful] that the rush hour traffic jam won’t be that serious because so many people will be sleeping at the time, while I’m on a bus on my way to work.”
BY KWON SANG-SOO [email@example.com]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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