China’s Ministry of Labor and My Saturday

Image thanks to China Jobs:

In China, the Ministry of Labor sets the official working calendar for the year. This is issued at year-end and maps the days off and public holidays for the year ahead (“Notification of Holiday Arrangements in 2017”).

The work schedule changes annually as the two major holidays are lunar, and change annually dependent on the cycle of the moon. (Chinese New Year is usually in February and Golden Week is in October – each are five work day breaks plus a weekend.)

What surprised me was the trade-off in advance and after major holidays. If you get a  day off for a holiday, usually you have to work a weekend day.

As example, in early April China celebrates Ching Ming Festival. This is a day to honour ancestors. Families will tend to the graves of deceased, and burn paper effigies of money or clothing for ancestors to use in the after-life. I like that there’s a day to remember and honour your ancestors. As Ching Ming is held in springtime, it’s also a day to be outdoors with your family and enjoy the temperate weather.

Original Image by Robert Chaen (

In exchange for the Monday-Tuesday holiday, next Saturday, 1 April is an official working day in China (that’s not April Fool’s joke). That means th entire nation comes to work. Banks are open. Grocery stores run regular hours. Kids go to school. It’s a workaday normal day – even if the calendar says Saturday.

At Huawei, there’s one extra wrinkle. The last Saturday of each month is a company work day for all employees based on the Chinese Mainland. It’s a quieter day as our suppliers and customers aren’t working. Some employees choose not to come in. Working weekends is normal for many trades, such as butchers, food service professionals, drivers, etc.

Here’s the wrinkle. For every Saturday you work, at year-end you get a choice: Double pay for every day worked; or extra vacation day credits.

Colleagues heatedly debate the merits of each. “Take the money,” say some. If you choose to take extra holidays you’re deducted one day for every day you take. “Take the time,” say others. There’s a psychological benefit to having a large bank of vacation time.

So here I am. It’s Saturday. I’m at work. And next year I’ll have a longer holiday as a result. I also have the added benefit of one focused day with little distraction and an ability to get larger, time intensive projects wrapped up.

Enjoy your weekend – TGIS!

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