Does Brazil have too many public holidays?

I’m no workaholic – I put in extra hours when there’s a big project on, but I’m not one of those people who calls the office when they’re on holiday or sneaks off during birthday parties to check work emails. I like holidays OK? Long weekends are the best! But…

I’m starting to wonder about the situation here in Brazil. We had a public holiday a couple of weeks ago (great!), today is also a holiday (OK…) and also next Tuesday (seriously?). I’m struggling to get a definitive answer, but it looks like Brazil has somewhere between 13 and 16 national public holidays, and Rio has its own “Founding of Rio” holiday too.

 

Batman and Robin meme

This image was circulating yesterday (Wednesday). Robin is saying “Woohoo! Today is ‘Friday’!” (because Thursday, is a public holiday). Batman is replying “Today is Wednesday and you have to work on Friday!”.

 

Regardless of what the exact figure is, that’s a lot of days off work! For comparison’s sake, the US has 11 public holidays, the UK has just 8. Now I don’t mean to be a big party pooper here, but I have been discovering recently just how expensive these public holidays are.

On a ‘micro’ level, they are costing me personally – I get paid by the day so as the third holiday in 3 weeks approaches I am starting to count the cost.

Looking at things on a ‘macro’ level, the UK had an extra public holiday this year to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond jubilee and reports say that it cost the country £1.2 billion (R$3.9bn / US$1.9bn) in lost productivity. They say that this made a very significant dent in the nations struggling economy (though this may have been partially offset by a boost in retail spending of £400).

The Queen's Diamond Jubilee

I’m the Queen and I’ve decided you can all have one extra day off! Source

 

The number of holidays is not the only way that Brazil does things differently. To someone who grew up in England, the way that Brazil manages its holidays also seems a little strange. This country takes its holidays where they fall – if that happens to be a Thursday then so be it – you have a rather weird week at work coming up!

And there’s a flip-side – if the holiday lands on a Saturday or Sunday – unlucky! Brazil has just one public holiday for Christmas and last year the 25th fell on a Sunday. The result? Christmas was the weekend, nothing else! I went to work on Friday, had Christmas, then went back to work on Monday. I felt extremely sorry for myself (even though everyone else in the nation was experiencing the same thing).

What do you think about this? Doesn’t it seem fairer to move holidays to everyone’s most hated day (Monday)? Wouldn’t a cut in holidays mean a massive boost to Brazil’s economy?

[Full disclosure: I am possibly being a Holiday Grinch today because I have to work (because of my UK employer) when everyone else has the day off]

 

 

15 replies
  1. Phil
    Phil says:

    So if New Year’s Eve comes right before a week day, people show up bright and early the next morning for work? That sounds rather brutal. I prefer shifting holidays to hook up with the nearest weekend, but Brazilians may find that approach to be too cold and business-like, and they might be right.

    As for the loss of productivity, the flip side is that people might return to work more motivated and less stressed, and hence be more productive than if they hadn’t had the holiday. In the old days, people worked a 6-day work week and only got Sunday off, which might have resulted in more productivity, but at a cost to the worker.

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Hi Phil – great point about the increase in productivity. I know that I start to get groucy and unenthusiastic if I go too long without a break.

      New Year’s Eve is covered because they take New Year’s Day as the holiday (though I remember one year when my hangover wasn’t completely better by the 2nd… 😉 )

      Reply
  2. Eva
    Eva says:

    God, I’ve been feeling the same way, and then I wonder if I should just f###ing relax…but seriously, I feel like every Friday has been a holiday for the last two months…and this basically week-long holiday going on right now seriously threw me for a loop (I should clarify that I don’t work 9-5 so it doesn’t affect me in the same way, but things just get put off…and off…)

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      It’s the Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday holidays that throw me – I know where I am with a good old Monday off: a nice long weekend! But as Batman rightly points out in that picture, Having Thursday off doesn’t make Wednesday all that great, right? You know you’ve still got Friday coming up…

      Reply
  3. Shayna
    Shayna says:

    I used to get annoyed at all the holidays when they directly affected my income – especially since if a holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday, people tend to stretch it into the preceding or following weekend, thus meaning two days of canceled classes and a pay cut for the English teacher. Carnaval? Ugh! I think it’s like 2 days in Sao Paulo, something like 4 in Rio, and a solid 8 in Bahia (that’s counting one day for the hangover).

    Now that I’m no longer teaching, the holidays don’t make me nearly as grumpy! Only thing is that I need to remember when the padaria and supermarkets are closed so that I can hit the stores beforehand.

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Hey Shayna – I expect this is mostly the same issue for me. I always loved it when we had a public holiday or two when I still got paid. But I should be careful for what I wish for – yesterday I worked while most other people were having their day off. That made me even more grumpy! 😉

      Reply
  4. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    Try having school aged kids! Anytime there is a holiday on a Thursday the school is automatically closed Friday. Tuesday it is closed Monday. And while I get it, I mean who doesn’t want a free day off, it isn’t technically a holiday! I should have the option of bringing my kids to school damn it!

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Good point Rachel! A friend mentioned this exact thing – Brazilian school kids must love it! I know I would have done as a kid – not so good for working parents though…

      Reply
  5. BrazilianSoul
    BrazilianSoul says:

    Monaco having many holidays? Ok. But Brazil? A country full of slums with so much work (and basic sanitation) to be done? It’s crazy…

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      It is curious isn’t it? I know a lot of people talk about ‘Bread and Circus’ being a popular method that politicians use to distract people from the problems of the country. Perhaps this is part of it?

      Reply
  6. Ray
    Ray says:

    Tom,

    Contrary to what “Brazilian Soul” commented above, holidays are very healthy to a country’s economy, be that Brazil or Japan, and Monaco would be praying on their knees that everyone get on vacation and go spend money on their casinos and hotels. Japan a few years ago was trying to figure out a way to create more vacation and holidays so their people spend more money and heat up their sluggish economy.
    The money people spent on Holidays is far superior and beneficial to an economy than the eventual loss in productivity.
    The Japanese made several studies on the subject and found out people spend a lot of money on their days off work. You might have time to go look at that new living room set or new curtains or carpet, or go for a test drive and end up buying a new car, go out with the family and eat out, long story short, traveling or not, people on days off work and with time on their hands, spend money like crazy, and this is great for the economy.
    I think Brazil’s holidays are very healthy to the country’s economy.

    Abracos
    Ray

    Reply
    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Hi Ray – fair point. It’s certainly not a black and white issue. After the Jubilee in the UK, all the headlines were about drops in productivity, but there was very little mention of the considerable increase in spending. I guess it’s about the area of the economy that you want to stimulate. If you want to give your leisure and sales industry a boost then a holiday is a great idea. But if you want to support, say, your financial sector then probably a holiday isn’t so good.

      I think one of the most important points, which maybe we are forgetting with all this money talk, is that it is good for the health and happiness to take a break once in a while, to de-stress from your office job or just spend some time with your family. It is hard to put a value on that, but it is something we all need to do more! 🙂

      Reply

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