China Experiments With Longer Weekend to Boost Shopping

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The northern Chinese province of Hebei is proposing giving workers Friday afternoon off, while Beijing urges shops and malls to stay open later at night, as officials seek creative ways of stimulating consumption and supporting economic growth.

The capital city hopes to boost spending on fashion and branded goods in the "night economy” by getting retailers to extend their business hours, Beijing News reported on Monday, citing the city government’s latest work report. Hebei is also pushing for paid leave and encouraging people to take vacations and adopt flexible working hours, the local government said in a two-year plan posted on its website on Jan. 10.

The Hebei plan seeks to "quicken the breakdown of the most direct and prominent systemic obstacles restricting residential consumption in the province and foster areas for new consumption growth," the proposal said.

China is turning to domestic consumption to drive growth as trade headwinds, falling factory sentiment and a worsening employment outlook threaten the economy. The nation is preparing to revive demand for cars this year after the first annual slide in vehicle sales in at least two decades, and has pledged to boost demand for household appliances.

Experiments with longer breaks have yielded mixed results. Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand firm that manages trusts and estates, found a four-day work week resulted in more productivity, the Guardian reported. But a two-year experiment cutting working hours -- while maintaining pay -- for nurses at an old peoples’ home in Gothenburg, Sweden showed that costs outweighed the benefits.

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