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Workers criticise Labour Day holiday as “fake”

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Workers criticise Labour Day holiday as “fake”

Four "adjusted holiday days" borrowed from weekends means the five-day national holiday only offers one day off

As the Labour Day holiday (劳动节 láodòng jié) in China draws to an end, frustrations about the dates of the break this year continue.

The Labour Day holiday starts on May 1, which is a Wednesday this year, and ends on May 5, a Sunday this time around.

That’s five rest days in total.

But then there are "adjustment days" on either side of the holiday, which are Sunday April 28, and Saturday May 11. People are required to work on these days, meaning two six-day weeks either side of the holiday, to "adjust" for the time-off.  

So the five-day holiday for many people has been ruined by one of the most annoying things about working in China: "holiday adjustment days" (调休 tiáoxiū).

This is where National holidays involve "adjusting" (调休 tiáoxiū) weekend days into working days, to extend the holiday period by aligning holidays with weekends.

It’s been in place place since 1999 when the authorities modified the holiday system, and was updated again in 2008.

Labour Day, initially one day off, was extended to three days, and National Day, previously two days, was also extended to three days. But to achieve that, "adjusted days" were taken from weekends before and after to create one chunk of time-off.

Originally intended to provide workers with more time to rest, it became a lever to stimulate the holiday economy, giving rise to the concept of "Golden Week" (黄金周), when it feels like everyone in China is all on holiday at the same time.

Labour day is one of the three “golden week” national holidays in China.

This year, not including the two weekend days in the Labor Day break (May 4 and 5), and the two adjusted days from the weekends before and after the holiday, the break actually only offers one additional day off. 

It's a "fake holiday" according to an entertaining play on words: 

It's not a holiday, but a fake break. 


Zhè búshì fàngjià, érshì “jiǎ fàng”.

The characters for "holiday" (假 jià) and "fake" (假 jiǎ) are the same, and pronounced in the same way (jia), but with a different tone. 

This year there are an increasing number of voices criticising the system as out of date:

What's the point of these adjustments? Are they meant to give people rest or make workers even more exhausted?

Why invent a system where people have to win their rightful vacation time with more painful overtime?"

这个调休到底是让人休息还是让上班的人更累呢? 用更痛苦的加班换取本来就属于自己的假期到底发明出来是为了啥呢?[2]

With China's stressed economy, weakened consumer demand, and excess production capacity, consumers are spending less during national holidays. Crowded tourist destinations further deter people from going to them. 

Negativity towards working culture in China also doesn’t help.

Excessive workload, overwhelming pressures, intensely competitive "996" and "007" work schedules, single and double rest days, unpaid overtime, and “hidden after-work duties” mean people are exhausted by the time they get to a national holiday.

This year's adjusted holiday days have been particularly frustrating: 

We worked during the weekend to get the Qingming holiday, and now we have to put up with more overtime for the Labour Day holiday.

In order to have a 5-day vacation, we have to sacrifice one day each from the weekends before and after. Some people complained online, “With all these adjustments, we might as well put the 6-day work week in place for April.”


So, that's what we are exploring this week!

Favourite Five

Artwork by Derek Zheng

1. 破防 pò fáng

burst into tears; overwhelmed 

调休又又又上热搜了,打工人又又又破防了- Holiday days adjustment is trending on Weibo again, and working people are once again upset. [1] 

2. 假放 jiǎ fàng

take a fake holiday

网友们认为,这不是放假,而是“假放” - Netizens believe that this is not a real holiday, but rather a fake break. [2]

3. 朝三暮四 zhāo sān mù sì

say three in the morning and four in the evening; keep changing

调来调去,不过是朝三暮四的数字游戏 - Holiday days adjustment is just a game of changing the numbers around. [1]

4. 既要马儿跑,又要马儿不吃草 jì yào mǎ ér pǎo, yòu yào mǎ ér bù chī cǎo

want the horse to run, but also don’t want to feed the horse; have the cake and eat it

想让马儿跑又不给马儿吃草,想让你消费又不想给你发钱 - The government want you to spend but don't want to give you money, just like wanting the horse to run but refusing to feed it. [2]

5. 拆东墙补西墙 chāi dōng qiáng bǔ xī qiáng

tearing down the east wall to fix the west wall

人们期待更多的假期,而不是“拆东墙补西墙”的调休 - People want more holidays and they are tired of the existing practice of "tearing down the east wall to repair the west wall", i.e. borrowing weekend days to seemingly extend a holiday. [3] 


Consuming the Conversations

五一节放假安排2024 - 五一假期安排- 五一放假几天

Useful words

6. 调休 tiáo xiū

holiday days adjustment

调休的安排,原本是让劳动者更好地休息,现在变成了一种撬动假日经济的杠杆 - Holiday days adjustment was originally intended to allow workers to rest better, but now it has become a lever to stimulate the holiday economy.

  • Related:

    • 单休 dān xiū - 6-day work week (or one-day weekend)

7. 拼假 pīn jià

adjust rest days to extend vacation

人山人海的热闹景象,似乎也坐实了调休拼假的“正确” - The bustling scenes of crowds appear to confirm that the adjusting rest days for longer vacation is the right decision. [1]

8. 干瘪 gān biě

shrivelled; depleted

我的钱包已经很干瘪了,为什么你们还要想着掏空它 - My wallet is already empty, so why do you still want me to spend more? [1]

9. 优解 yōu jiě

optimal solution

多放两天假,效率提上来,恐怕才是优解 - The optimal solution is probably to give workers two more days off, which can increase their productivity. [2]

Three-character phrases

10. 凑假期 còu jià qī

borrow rest days for a longer holiday

“凑假期”的方式,打乱了原本规律的工作节奏,造成身体疲惫 - Borrowing rest days for a longer holiday disrupts the regular work rhythm, which leads to physical fatigue. [2]

  • Related:

    • 硬凑 yìng còu - forcefully put together

    • 东拼西凑 dōng pīn xī còu - piece together haphazardly

11. 获得感 huò dé gǎn

sense of gain

问题是,为什么假期增多了,公众的获得感反而减低了? - The question is, why has the public's sense of gain decreased even though there are more holidays? [2] 

  • Related: 

    • 松弛感 sōngchí gǎn - relaxed feeling

    • 幸福感 xìngfú gǎn  - a feeling of happiness

12. 伤不起 shāng bù qǐ

can't afford to get hurt; can't take it

假期前后上了三个“六天班”,上班族“伤不起” - Working three 6-day weeks before and after the holiday, office workers really can't take it. [3] 

  • Note: A common internet slang phrase. 


13. 众口难调 zhòng kǒu nán tiáo

difficult to please everyone

假期到底如何安排,该不该调休,是一个众口难调的问题 - It is difficult to please everyone when it comes to how long the holidays should be and if other rest days should be borrowed to make it longer. [1]

14. 细水长流 xì shuǐ cháng liú

a small river travels far; a little goes a long way

是窗口期集中花钱,还是细水长流更有利于提振消费,拉动内需 - Which can truly boost consumption and drive domestic demand? Spending lavishly during peak periods or spending modestly in daily life? [1]

15. 身心俱疲 shēn xīn jù pí

physically and mentally exhausted, burnt out

人们反对调休的原因很简单:身心俱疲 - The reason people oppose holiday days adjustment is quite simple: they are burnt out. [2]

16. 舟车劳顿 zhōu chē láo dùn

exhausted from a long journey

部分人会选择在假期出游,舟车劳顿后回到工作岗位还要连上6天班 - Some people would choose to travel during the holidays, but they then have to work six consecutive days upon returning from an exhausting trip. [3]

17. 不合时宜 bù hé shí yí

inappropriate, untimely

从这个意义上而言,调休制度显然已不合时宜 - From this perspective, the holiday days adjustment is obviously outdated. [3]

18. 惴惴不安 zhuì zhuì bù ān

nervous, uneasy

人们在申请休假时,有几个人不是惴惴不安,成功了有一种大功告成的窃喜 - When people apply for leave, most of them are quite nervous, so if it's approved, it brings them a sense of achievement. [3]


19. 不改不行 bù gǎi bù xíng

must change, have to change

既然调休制度“不改不行”了,那么,除了调来调去,我们的假期还能怎么休? - Since the holiday days adjustment must change, what other options do we have for our holidays besides borrowing days from weekends? [3]

20. 不升反降 bù shēng fǎn jiàng

decline instead of increase

收入增长趋缓甚至不升反降时,人们花钱的意愿减弱 - When income doesn't grow as fast or even declines, people's willingness to spend money weakens. [1]

21. 提上议程 tí shàng yì chéng

put on the agenda

对调休方案作出调整也许该正式提上议程了 - It may be time to formally put changes to existing holiday days adjustment on the agenda. [1] 

22. 添柴加火 tiān chái jiā huǒ

to fuel, to contribute

你得出门旅游,你得消费,为经济增长添柴加火 - They say you have to travel, to spend money, and to fuel economic growth. [1] 

  • Note: Usually positive connotations. Therefore, different from 火上浇油 which could be translated in the same way but with a negative connotation. 

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