Taiwan will have the second-highest working hours in the world if the legislature fails to reinstate seven national holidays, which would defeat the purpose of the legislation to shorten work hours, the Taiwan Higher Education Union said yesterday.
Taiwan ranks third in working hours worldwide, after Mexico and Costa Rica, the union said, citing its own study.
The Ministry of Labor has proposed a bill that would give workers one fixed day off and one flexible rest day (一例一休), while the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is promoting two fixed days off per week (兩例).
However, if the seven national holidays are not reinstated, Taiwan will have longer working hours than Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member states and the second-longest working hours worldwide whichever bill is passed, the union said.
South Korea and Chile, whose development level is comparable with Taiwan’s, have 30 days off per year, compared with Taiwan’s 26 days, indicating that Taiwanese do not have an excess of holidays as the government has claimed, union director Lin Po-yi (林柏儀) said.
He said that many among the top 10 OECD member states — including Austria, France, Iceland, Sweden and the UK — have a higher GDP per capita than Taiwan, which he said debunks the government’s “terrorizing” rhetoric that granting people the seven holidays would hurt the nation’s economy and competitiveness.
Lin said Taiwan’s economic development emulates that of several OECD members, but the government has downplayed the severity of the dire situations Taiwanese workers face by distributing skewed information.
Given the nation’s long working hours and stagnant wages, the bill proposed by the ministry must not be passed, or Taiwan risks becoming an “overworked island,” he said.
Union secretary-general Chen Cheng-liang (陳政亮) said denying workers the seven holidays would result in longer working hours and thus be counterproductive to the aim of reducing working hours.
Chen added that no other country cancels national holidays while trying to reduce working hours.
Taiwan has 2,134 work hours a year, while OECD member states have an average of 1,771 hours, which means Taiwanese work about 45 more eight-hour days than their OECD counterparts, he said.
Union researcher Chen Po-chien (陳柏謙) said that from the previous KMT administration to the current Democratic Progressive Party government, one recurring remark by officials is that the seven holidays cannot be justified, as some historic figures or events are no longer worth commemorating.
However, the significance of holidays should not override workers’ need for rest, he said, citing Japan as an example, which in 1996 introduced its Marine Day and this year promulgated the “Day of the Mountains” as national holidays.
Lin said that unions would go on strike if the “ill-conceived” bill is passed.
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