A government program to shower consumers in China’s capital with coupons to spend during the upcoming Labor Day holiday ended up sparking a litany of complaints online about how little time off workers get these days.
According to a state media post on Weibo Monday, the Beijing government will issue 4.5 billion yuan ($693.4 million) worth of coupons to stimulate consumer spending starting with the forthcoming Labor Day holiday. The video posted by CCTV has been forwarded 40,000 times and has received thousands of comments.
The “2021 Beijing Consumer Season” will begin in April 28, according to an announcement by Beijing's Bureau of Commerce and Bureau of Culture and Tourism, as reported in the video. The Labor Day holiday period will see an initial distribution of cash coupons, discount coupons and free goods coupons to consumers in Beijing worth billions of yuan. Last May, as China reeled from an economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus, local governments issued spending vouchers that received a mixed reception.
What’s the story?
The stimulus program aims to invigorate all aspects of the consumer economy. E-commerce and livestreaming platforms, stores and financial institutions will reportedly issue 10 billion yuan in subsidies in the run up to the national holiday that starts May 1 to encourage people to “buy, buy, buy,” according to the promotional material. Supermarkets, restaurants, delivery services and department stores are all included in the program, as are parks and local scenic areas. Companies are encouraged to participate, with appliance sellers JD.com, Suning.com, Gome and Dazhong planning to offer discounts on electronics.
What are people saying online?
One popular commenter on the coupon giveaway wondered how the coupons could be obtained and questioned where the billions will actually go.
But much of the online criticism focused not on the coupons but on the time people were given to spend them.
National holidays in China involve employees having to work weekend days in lieu of weekdays so as to secure a longer holiday periods. Beijingers are currently in the middle of a six-day work week that began on Sunday, and the hashtag “reform the holiday system” has been trending on social media site Weibo over the past three days.
“Messing with vacation dates and then shamelessly engaging in sales promotions. Again, just attacking the regular people!” one comment read.
The most popular comments under CCTV’s stimulus video suggest that the incentive is somewhat misconceived. The city’s workers would much rather keep their weekends and have more days free than hunt down the state-supported discount coupons.
“In order to stimulate the economy, why make the long vacations shorter and make people work weekends in compensation? Some have to work 12 days in the row just to take a decent holiday,” said one representative comment about the video.
“With ‘996 work culture’ and ‘007 overtime,’ how can young Chinese people stomach more meddling in their vacations?” asked one commenter, referencing the shorthand for the schedules that require employees to work far in excess of 40 hours a week.
In reference to Russia’s holiday schedule, which gives workers an entire week off for Labor Day without requiring people to work weekends, one Chinese commenter asked, “Why can’t we just have holidays like other countries, without all this meddling?”