solution to holiday crisis
By G. Janarathanan
Sri Lanka is one country in the world that enjoys
the most number of holidays - 143 holidays per year in some sectors.
This is unacceptable specially because there is no productivity
on these days.
these holidays are put to good use, then there is no problem in
having many holidays like having shramadana campaigns on holidays
which is not a bad idea. This could be done in one's home or by
a group getting together to clean the environment in the village,
a road or maintaining and attending to minor repairs to public property.
May be even tree planting, putting up rainwater conservation devises,
digging wells and tanks to use ground water for washing cars, watering
plants and washing clothes thus conserving drinking water.
If we closely study the original purpose of holidays,
we find only a few holidays serving its purpose now because society
itself has changed a lot from what it was many years ago.
Thai Pongal for example. Religious observances start by early dawn
and are over by 10 in the morning after visits to the temple. The
rest of the day is left for exchanges/visits with close relatives,
which was possible then. But now relatives are scattered in different
parts of the world and one, with a few exceptions, tends to stay
indoors and watch TV. This could be true in other religions too.
Even otherwise can we afford entertainment against productivity?
workers are not in favour of holidays since their income is based
on what they earn daily. Even for a small family, daily wages are
not enough to set aside for savings.
there are holidays, the casual worker has no work and no money.
This is a sector that would be happy to work all the 365 days. The
second sector is the permanent and monthly paid worker. They too
have to find other means to pay hospital bills, schoolbooks, uniforms,
social expenditure and so on. They find holidays a financial burden
because it means spending money on entertainment. The third category
are those monthly paid or self-employed but well off in all sectors
of expenses-food, clothing, shelter, schooling, entertainment etc.
they too have bigger aspirations like higher education for the children,
owning a house and other needs which require huge sums of money.
This kind of worker also likes to work harder and earn more for
his workplace as more profit means a bigger bonus, more overtime
and less spending on entertainment and other holiday-related expenses.
why should there be holidays for non-Hindus on Deepavali or Thai
Pongal day; or for non Muslims on Haj or Prophet Mohamed's birthday;
or non Christians on Good Friday or Christmas; or non Sinhalese
on New Year or Vesak? Most people not knowing what to do on those
days spend a lot of money on entertainment and waste national wealth
This holiday is a must since Poya is not only significant
to Buddhists but to others too. Poya holidays came in for two reasons
- as a sacred Buddhist holiday and the other for health. In the
good old days, old people irrespective of religion will not work
on a Poya day because it is a heavy day. The influence of the moon
is so great on the human constitution that it is best to rest on
It is not new to work round the year, all 365 days without
a single holiday. If we look around we see many sectors already
work throughout the year without closing like restaurants from small
wayside tea boutiques to five star hotels, grocery shops, pharmacies,
petrol stations, LP Gas suppliers, bakeries, press, radio station,
TV stations, police, electricity supply, emergency worlds, private
hospitals, cinemas, airport, seaport, railways, road, transport,
water supply and telecommunication.
We need to consider a plan where all sectors of the economy
work throughout the year. Those who resist excessive holidays and
a loss to the economy should consider this seriously. All sectors
should work through the year except on Poya days, which mean there
will be only 12 or 13 statutory holidays.
To ensure a trouble-free, transition and to ensure efficient
functioning of the workplace, all holidays now enjoyed by the workforce
would be retained.
However there is no statutory holiday except Poya days. All other
holidays are compulsory or optional depending on the occasion and
the individual. Each religious group must have their holidays as
compulsory holidays and for others it is a compulsory working day.
The employee has the choice of taking the leave that he enjoys on
any day he wants.
To ensure a smooth functioning of this system, some employees
should be assigned to various sectors in an establishment to coordinate
and cover any point found vacant due to an employee going on leave.
By this we will see the country working round the year
except Poya days and any worker can get his 'other' work done on
any day his choice including Sundays.
We will be the first in the world to solve this holiday
problem through this revolutionary method. Production and overseas
business partners irritated by excessive holidays will be very happy
as the country would be at work every day and help in the economic
recovery too. This article is not an end to itself but to trigger
a debate and discussion on how to trim our holiday structure.
need a presidential commission to review and revise holidays and
to call for suggestions from the Employers Federation, trade unions,
the self employed, Department of Labour and other connected government
sections, the two main political parties and other opposition parties
and the clergy.
is a long process but some solution needs to be found to our holiday
system if this country is to grow economically.
This is the month of holidays when the public and private
sectors close for a week or even two. No one doubts that Sri Lanka
has too many holidays and that this is one of the deterrents towards
achieving higher levels of economic growth.
invite views from the public on radical ways of reducing holidays.
Or is there is a need - like what this writer in the article that
we publish today urges -- for a comprehensive study by a commission
or established group comprising representatives from all sectors
on the way forward vis-à-vis a proper holiday structure?
Keep contributions small - maximum 300 words to accommodate a lot
of views - and send your thoughts on this topic to The Business
Editor, The Sunday Times, No. 8, Hunupitiya Cross Road, Colombo
2 or email - email@example.com