Information Paper for the
Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Manpower


The purpose of this paper is to inform members of the proposals in respect of general holidays recently announced by the Administration.


2.There are two kinds of holidays in Hong Kong :

  1. general holidays, provided under the Holiday Ordinance, (Cap 149), are holidays for banks, schools, public offices and government departments; and

  2. statutory holidays, provided under the Employment Ordinance (Cap 57), are employment benefits which must be granted to employees, including those working in banks and schools, but not to civil servants (since the Employment Ordinance does not apply to the Government).

3.As the law now stands, the number of general holidays (other than Sundays) will be 17 in 1998. The number of statutory holidays is 11, and will rise to 12 in 1999, as a result of the inclusion of 1 May.

General holiday on 1 May

4.To avoid anomalies, it is important for 1 May to be a general holiday as well as a statutory holiday. For example, even though bank staff will be entitled to a statutory holiday on 1 May, banks would need to maintain business as usual for operational reasons if 1 May is not designated as a general holiday as well. Although employers can assign an alternative holiday to their employees by giving them 48 hours' advance notice, this will lead to inevitable staff deployment difficulties.

5.Confusion might also arise among our overseas trading partners, who are used to our practice of statutory holidays also being general holidays, as to whether commercial and financial transactions would be carried out on that day. Indeed, there may be confusion as to whether it is necessary for any person to make any payment or do any act relating to a negotiable instrument on that day. Certainty in this respect is particularly important, given Hong Kong's status as an international financial centre.

General holiday on the Buddha's Birthday

6.For many years, the Hong Kong Buddhist community has sought to make the Buddha's Birthday a public holiday. The Hong Kong Buddhist Association has recently written formally to the Government on this subject. We have an estimated 800,000 Buddhists in Hong Kong, and the bulk of the local population, even if they are not Buddhists themselves, also respect Buddha. Buddhism is a major Eastern religion and the Buddha's Birthday is an important oriental religious festival. This is why the Government supports the request from the Buddhist community, and is proposing that the Buddha's Birthday should also be celebrated as a general holiday from 1999 onwards.

Capping the total number of general holidays

7.At 17 days a year, the total number of general holidays (other than Sundays) in Hong Kong is already better than our neighbouring economies. We cannot justify increasing this number any further either in terms of Hong Kong's competitiveness when compared with neighbouring economies or in view of the additional economic cost involved. (The cost impact of an additional general holiday is 0.2% of the total wage bill, or $692 million).

8.Accordingly, we propose, as a matter of policy, to cap the total number of general holidays (other than Sundays) at 17 days in a year. It follows that for 1 May and the Buddha's Birthday to be new general holidays, then these days would need to be offset by the deletion of two of the existing six general holidays which are not also statutory holidays. These holidays are Good Friday; the Day after Good Friday; Easter Monday; Sino-Japanese War Victory Day (third Monday in August); 2 October and the first weekday after Christmas Day (Boxing Day).


9.We are seeking public views, essentially from employer and employee organisations as well as the financial services sector, as to which two of these six general holidays might be offset by the proposed new general holidays on 1 May and the Buddha's Birthday.

Advice sought

10.Members are invited to note the contents of this paper.

Education and Manpower Bureau
18 December 1997