During a recent question-and-answer session on the legislative floor, Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) used a popular catchphrase created by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami when asked to consider increasing the number of public holidays, saying he looked at the issue positively because people would enjoy “a little happiness in hand” with more work holidays.
Jiang then told lawmakers that he already had three proposals in mind. Without delay, officials at the Ministry of the Interior and Directorate-General of Personnel Administration soon gave several reasons to support Jiang’s stance.
The government’s response was expected when New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu’s (朱立倫) criticism that the six-day Lunar New Year holiday this year was relatively short appeared to resonate with the public and prompted lawmakers to vie to make nine-day Lunar New Year holidays mandatory.
Leaving aside immediate opposition from leaders of business groups, who tend to bemoan the effects public holidays have on productivity and production, any increase in public holidays is attractive to most constituencies, which is why Jiang tried to get a step ahead of lawmakers by declaring his support for the issue with his three proposals.
This might enable the embattled premier to score some short-term political points, but it is actually of little help in improving the labor market in Taiwan, which is characterized by long working hours, low pay and informal working arrangements, each of which is a hindrance to “a little happiness in hand.”
The problem of long work hours alone no doubt deserves government attention more than the number of public holidays, especially for people who are not covered under regulations passed in 2001 mandating a five-day workweek, which apply to civil public servants, military personnel and teachers.
According to a report released by the then-Council of Labor Affairs, now the Ministry of Labor, in December last year, Taiwanese in 2012 worked an average of 2,141 hours, which was the third-highest annual average among 30 countries. The study did not include Hong Kong, which is also known for its extremely long working hours. Taiwan followed Mexico and Singapore, where people averaged 2,402 hours and 2,226 hours that year, respectively.
Taiwan’s average is much longer than the average of 72 countries — 1,915 hours per year — surveyed by UBS, a global financial service firm, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) average of 1,776 hours.
Taiwan is among the few Asian countries lacking a mandatory five-day workweek across all sectors, as set out in the “Forty-Hour Week Convention” adopted by the International Labor Organization in 1935.
The Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics has found that about 90 percent of employees worked more than 40 hours a week in 2012 and about 10 percent worked more than 50 hours a week that year.
Along with the 2001 implementation of the five-day workweek in certain sectors, the then-revised Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法) reduced regular work hours to 84 hours every two weeks, compared with the original 48 hours a week provision.
What does “a little happiness in hand” mean?
Murakami, a marathon runner, once suggested: “a cold beer after a hard workout.”
“If we don’t have this kind of a little happiness, life would be like a dry, arid desert,” Murakami said.
A little happiness in hand could be that simple.
In work-hour rankings, Taiwan was followed by South Korea, with an average of 2,090 annual work hours, according to the labor ministry study.
Same difference? However, it is worth noting that South Korea has the fastest-declining work hours in the OECD. Since 1991, 571 hours have been trimmed.
During the same period, there was a reduction of just 220 hours in Taiwan.
The government could expect more of itself.
An outrageous dismissal of the exemplary Taiwanese fight against COVID-19 has been perpetrated by the EU. There is no excuse. I presume that everyone who reads the Taipei Times knows that the EU has excluded Taiwan from its so-called “safe list,” which permits citizens unhindered travel to and from the countries of the EU. As the EU does not feel that it needs to explain the character of this exclusive list, perhaps we should examine it ourselves in some detail. There are 14 nations on the list that have been chosen as safe countries of origin and safe countries of destination for
Filmmakers in Taiwan used to struggle when it came to telling a story that could resonate internationally. Things started to change when the 2017 drama series The Teenage Psychic (通靈少女), a collaboration between HBO Asia and Taiwanese Public Television Service (PTS), became a huge hit not just locally, but also internationally. The coming-of-age story was adapted from the 2013 PTS-produced short film The Busy Young Psychic (神算). Entirely filmed in Taiwan, the Mandarin-language series even made it on HBO’s streaming platforms in the US. It is proof that a well-told Taiwanese story can absolutely win the hearts and minds of hard-to-please
Drugged with sedatives, handcuffed and wearing a bright orange prison tunic, British fraud investigator and former journalist Peter Humphrey was escorted by warders into an interrogation room filled with reporters, locked inside a steel cage and fastened to a metal “tiger chair.” Humphrey recalls: “I was completely surrounded by officers, dazed, manacled and with cameras pointing at me through the bars. I was fighting for my life like a caged animal. It was horrifying.” Footage from the interrogation was later artfully edited to give the appearance of a confession and broadcast on Chinese state media. While this might sound like an
The US House of Representatives on July 1 passed by unanimous consent a bipartisan bill that would penalize Chinese officials who implement Beijing’s new national security legislation in Hong Kong, as well as banks that do business with them. The following day, the US Senate unanimously passed the bill, which was later sent to the White House, where it awaits US President Donald Trump’s signature. The bill does not spell out what the sanctions would look like and Trump has yet to sign it into law, but Reuters on Thursday last week reported that five major Chinese state lenders are considering