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Hong Kong government announces plan to increase statutory holidays to 17

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Chief Executive of Hong Kong Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor proposed on Tuesday to standardise bank holidays and statutory holidays — meaning to gradually increase the number of mandatory days off from 12 to 17 days, as part of her HK$10 billion of relief measures.

More than a million Hong Kong workers will benefit from it.

The initiative has not been discussed with the business community. Lam added that the government will consult Hong Kong businesses and she believes that they can make the adjustment in the long term.

Raymond Yeung, chief Greater China economist at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) in Hong Kong, told Bloomberg that the statutory days off will essentially align “the holidays enjoyed by white-collar versus blue-collar” workers.

“The impact will primarily be very micro, if you think about how big the size of the population that will be affected by alignment,” he said. “Is there any real impact in terms of the macro economy? I’m not sure.”

Meanwhile, Liberal Party chairman Tommy Cheung Yu-yan, also an Executive Council member, told the South China Morning Post that the extra days off could fuel labour shortages and hit service quality. He called for its implementation over 15 years.

“The business sector wants the increments to be no bigger than one day every three years,” Cheung said.

In a study conducted by the Hong Kong government in 2011, it was revealed that increasing one statutory holiday can lead to an additional expense of HK$370 million. If the number of statutory holidays raises to the number of bank holidays, it will cost employers HK$1.83 billion per year for hiring extra labour to compensate for the loss.

Currently, about 30% of the Hong Kong workforce has less than 17 days of holidays annually.

There are 17 bank holidays and 12 statutory holidays in Hong Kong, meaning employers can opt out of five holidays for some workers. Good Friday, the day following Good Friday, Easter Day, Buddha’s Birthday and the day following Christmas Day (Boxing Day) are not statutory holidays.

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