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Days off now average close to one a fortnight!

If you enjoy bank holidays, Thailand is the place to be. There’s no doubt about it.

But it does beg the question: When does the work get done in the kingdom?

A few weeks back, when the latest holiday was announced, I jokingly posted that I was thinking of creating a Thai calendar showing the days when people do have to work. I would file that remark under “many a true word is spoken in jest”.

How many non-working days can the Thai economy stand?

I think I need to add some perspective here.

The latest public holiday brings the total of days off in 2019 for Thailand to 23 (admittedly two of them in the Songkran period fell on a weekend). That’s not a misprint – 23. By way of contrast the USA has 12; the UK has 8. If a Thai works in a farang-led company they can probably hope for Christmas Day and Boxing Day off in addition because the bosses won’t be working. But the latter are not formal holidays.

So, this year Thailand will have close to either twice or three times the number of bank holidays compared with the USA and UK. But Thailand is not number one for these breaks. It is still a handful behind Cambodia with 28.

It should be noted that the number of weeks’ annual leave in Thailand is not great by most Western standards. I seem to recall the staff on this magazine getting three weeks’ paid leave. I can’t say if this is the average – two weeks sticks in my mind for some reason. Americans get two weeks and Brits make up for the lack of public holidays with four-five weeks’ paid leave.

I can also recall instances where, if a Thai public holiday falls on either a Tuesday or a Thursday the government of the day would add an extra Monday or Friday to complete a long weekend. A vote-winning gesture if ever there was one.

This year a public holiday falls of the first Thursday of December (5th) followed closely the next Tuesday by Constitution Day (10th). What chance, I wonder, that the 6th and 9th will be added to make a five-day weekend?

I would confess to being a little muddled in my reaction to all these public days off. In one sense I’m envious of the sheer volume of days off, but, on the other hand I recall feeling annoyance when trying to run a business in Pattaya that I tried to work my way around so many individual days – especially if they fell mid-week, which made progress very disjointed.

I would be fairly confident that Thai workers would feel they ought to be trying to match Cambodia in terms of public holidays. But I think there is a happy medium and I’m not sure the Thai authorities have struck it.

Me? I get five weeks’ paid holiday in the UK and the company I work for allows you to sacrifice part of your salary and “buy” an extra five days. This totals 30 working days. Add the eight bank holidays and the fact that we tend not to work between Christmas and the New Year and my personal total is 41 days. Lob in 52 weekends at two days apiece that totals 145 days off. Not bad out off 365.

Believe it or not, this is the first time I have sat back to work this out. Now I feel a bit of a fraud for moaning about the number of Thai public holidays.

Ignore me. Have a good, new day off on the 3rd everyone.

By Dave Buckley

PS: The way my current magazine’s deadlines fall means I can take a long, connected break so I will be in Thailand for most of December and a little of next January. I hope to see friends and acquaintances then!