A local government plan to extend the work week to a mindboggling length has raised welfare concerns among lawyers and the public.
Qingzhen, a county in China’s southwestern Guizhou province, has started a trial that will see public servants in some departments working 22 consecutive days followed by eight days’ rest, state news agency Xinhua reported Sunday. Previously, staff worked a five-day week with a two-day weekend. The trial began on Nov. 1 and will end in May 2018.
The government said that staff holidays will be staggered so that offices can remain open on the weekends, providing improved services to citizens who are busy during the week, Xinhua said. A local official in charge of the arrangements refused Sixth Tone’s phone interview on Monday, saying they only accept interviews in person.
While some netizens have welcomed the policy for bringing added convenience, others have voiced their disapproval for an unhealthy culture of overwork. “Working for 22 continuous days will be too tiring,” one user wrote on microblog platform Weibo. “I once worked for 17 days — every day I was as busy as a dog, and by the 17th [day], my brain had stopped working,” another user posted.
Some online commenters questioned the practicality of the plan, as the county staff will have difficulty collaborating with other departments and companies that use ordinary work schedules. “It sounds more like a gimmick than an actual plan,” a Weibo user commented.
“This reform is only trying to please the public with claptrap,” Ding Jinkun, an attorney at DeBund Law Offices in Shanghai, told Sixth Tone. Ding said that a State Council regulation on public servants’ rights guarantees a 40-hour week with rest on weekends. “Working continuously [for such a long time] is a violation of the rules,” he said.
A local government official, however, told Xinhua that the plan does not violate the law because public servants will have the same total number of holidays. A clause in the regulation does allow for alternative work and rest arrangements if required “due to the nature of the work or special production limitations,” but Ding says the government’s interpretation is nonsensical.
“If this is about making things convenient for the people, they could introduce a duty system [for the holidays],” the lawyer said.
Similar regulations from other local governments have triggered heated debate in the past. Last year, a county in northern Hebei province announced that public servants would have to work on Saturdays but canceled the policy the next day after widespread online backlash.
Editor: Qian Jinghua.
(Header image: E+/VCG)