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Tuesday 31 January 2023 Dublin: 8°C
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Opinion 'One bank holiday per month would give employees something to look forward to'
More bank holidays would improve people’s quality of life and allow tourism and culture to flourish, writes James Shaw.

LABOUR UK LEADER Jeremy Corbyn recently announced a proposal to add four public holidays to the UK’s current sum of eight, with one for each feast day of the patron saints of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Here in Ireland we currently have nine bank holidays per year, one third less than the EU average of twelve. It’s fair to say that we’re owed a few.

However, beyond reasons of fairness in comparison to our European counterparts, adding three bank holidays promises to improve people’s quality of life and wellbeing, as well as providing a boost to businesses.

We love a long weekend

People love having a long weekend, not only does it give them an extra day’s rest, it gives them the freedom to plan activities that they wouldn’t fit into an ordinary weekend. Whether it’s not rushing home on Sunday evening or enjoying a late breakfast on Monday morning, bank holidays give us more time to spend with our friends and family, lifting the nation’s mood.

Although we are well served between Easter and June, our public calendar has notable absences of holidays around February, September and November. For example, there is no bank holiday from the last week of October until Christmas Day.

I believe that a free Monday at the end of November would give people a welcome reprieve from the dark evenings and provide an injection of spending in the build up to Christmas. Furthermore, the reward of an extra day of liberty allows workers to replenish their energy versus working eight weeks without such a break.

Indeed, having an average of one bank holiday per month would give employees something to look forward to each month. In that way, bosses also benefit from having happy, motivated employees.

People spend more on bank holidays

In financial terms, however, economists will say that the loss of productivity during bank holidays has to be made up for by a boost in spending. With regard to spending, a simple and innovative way for the government to promote greater spending during bank holidays is through regional tourism.

With the extra day of breathing space, people are more likely to travel during long weekends because it involves less rushing and any transport time amounts to a lesser portion of their overall trip. Rural Ireland would especially benefit from this, whose economy continues to experience slower growth than that of Dublin.

To that end, the government could use bank holidays to promote tourism at sites around the country, in a domestic equivalent to The Gathering, which successfully boosted tourism during 2013. Through innovation and clever marketing, the government could easily link the new bank holidays to a campaign to journey beyond your county.

This would provide an increase in revenue to small businesses in towns and villages across Ireland, at times when the demand for tourism is typically lower.

Irish people generally have positive attitudes towards European integration and the area of bank holidays should be one where we are happy to follow European norms. Looking beyond Europe, Japan has sixteen such holidays per year and so we can be assured that bringing our total to twelve will not derail the economy.

In fact, it will improve people’s quality of life and allow tourism and culture to flourish.

James Shaw recently completed a degree in Philosophy and French, at Trinity College, Dublin. He produces a column for The University Times.

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