You know what the turn of every Nepali New Year brings? Calendars! Lots and lots of them! Most of us should already be stocked up on calendars for 2075 or are just waiting for the assorted cement factories, federations, banks, and social organizations to give out these freebies so that we can take them home and maybe give out a few to our family members.
While the calendar (and diary) floods happen every year, there’s a slight difference in this year’s calendars – a significantly less proportion of red marks aka designated holidays. This new calendar makes for rather bleak reading for working professionals after the Oli government took the – strangely not unpopular – step of drastically reducing the number of holidays for 2075.
Now, there hasn’t been so much as a collective whimper because no one in their right minds would argue against reducing the number of holidays – not even the people who have historically benefited from this largesse. But even then, the sheer brutality of the cuts – almost fifty percent reduction – must have taken all beneficiaries by surprise.
The reason is that our number of holidays has long been seen as being inversely proportional to our economic competitiveness. As a result, any personal or even collective opposition to it can be construed as a sign of an indolent disposition. Or in other words, a ‘resistance to change’ mentality that is summed up by statements that go: ‘This attitude is exactly what is wrong with our country’ and ‘Nepal will never progress as long as people like this exist’.
Traditionally, all our economic problems tend to be oversimplified into neat brackets and this ‘extra and unnecessary’ holidays just happen to be one. This blame is assigned without regarding other factors that are far more germane to our woes like our work ethics, personal tardiness, sense of responsibility, servile work culture, conflicts of interest and many other variables.
While many did not agree to the drastic cuts, it’s safe to say that the general consensus amongst us all is that it is a step in the right direction. Yes, we did have some holidays that could be classified under the ‘extremely generous’ category but, if you delve a little deeper, you will find that there are far more valid justifications for maintaining the status quo, with a little nip and tuck rather than the large scale ‘holiday liposuction’ that we have to contend with.
For starters, we are only talking about increased working hours and, as any HR professional worth their salt might tell you, simply increasing working hours does not lead to better output or efficiency. On the contrary, recent research would seem to suggest exactly the opposite: The focus being more on productivity than simply logging in more hours.
And from the point of view of the overworked professional, this drastic cutback in ‘days off’ would perhaps be justified if there was a back up plan to enable us to pursue that holy grail of employed life – a decent work life balance. Okay, a double day weekend didn’t exactly catch fire in our country but what about a fixed allotment of holidays to do as we please with it. Why is that so difficult? We work a six-day week and it’s certainly not okay for the state to begrudge us a few days here and there if it means a better quality of life.
It’s too late for that anyway. One look at that free calendar will also tell you that a lot of ‘religious’ holidays have been given the chop. Say what we like about religion and tradition and whether we like to follow it or not, we, as a country, haven’t modernized yet to simply ignore some of these days (and their accompanying rituals) from 2075 onwards just because the government says so.
The fact is that there are lots of days and customs that take time and those running around from pillar to post on ‘Mata Tirtha Aunsi’ on Monday will no doubt attest to that. On any religious occasion, there are different aspects like fasting, worship, and temple visits and, when you think of juggling all that with a 9-5 obligation, it’s enough to make you want to tear your hair out.
What this lack of holidays will do for private sector organizations is firstly eat into what should be our quotas of days off to be taken for entirely different reasons. For organizations that have an ‘understanding’ (read loose) work culture, it will simply increase instances of employees registering their attendance and scooting off to do all the work alluded to above.
The government’s intent for reform is understandable seeing as we are on the cusp of a new economic era and any new measures need to be able to set the tone for the future. But it could also be done with a little consensus and gradually over time as opposed to being pushed through in a hurry. Right now, it has the feel of a job done using a butcher’s knife when, in reality, only a scalpel was necessary.
The writer loves traveling, writing, and good food when he is afforded an escape from the rat race. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org