Public holidays – precious for productivity or signs of effeteness?

May 1st is Labor Day in Germany. Living in Bavaria, it’s one of the 13 public holidays I enjoy annually. And of course, many public holidays boost the total days of leave. Thus, the average German has about 39 days of leave a year – more than any other EU state. In Britain, for example, which has the lowest number of bank holidays in the EU, unions demand a few more bank holidays to meet the European average.

In contrast, several German finance ministers have tried to cut the number of public holidays in Germany, but as this idea is very unpopular with the people, these plans were abandoned quickly. However, I wondered if it were a sensible idea to cut a few public holidays. Firstly, the vast majority of people around the world manage on considerably less leave a year and consider themselves lucky to take two weeks per year. And an extra day of working would increase the GDP. Moreover, how can we be competitive and maintain our economy’s rank while relaxing too much? Is this leisure-based society still adequate in times of global competition?

On the other hand, more leisure increases productivity and motivation. It’s a part of lifestyle and why work more than necessary if happy with one’s situation? Besides, not going to work one day doesn’t automatically mean lazing, but it’s an opportunity to study further or to do something one lacks of the time to do on weekdays. Another aspect is the leisure business. For people working in restaurants, bars, clubs and many more, these days are amongst the busiest of the year.

So, would all this be outweighed by the advantages of an extra day of work? Well, I don’t know. But unless a long-standing and severe economic downturn which would affect many people, a cut of public holidays is out of reach in Germany. A decrease in leisure time is very painful, even more painful than having less days off, I guess. However, Germans should be more aware of this luxury and appreciate it.

Some interesting opinions on this topic:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/talking_point/1507399.stm

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