Time to consider more public holidays

Singapore has 11 public holidays. This is the same that New Zealanders, Canadians and the French enjoy. The USA celebrates 18. The UK has 10. Malaysia has 12.

However, one must also consider the matter of paid holidays required by employment law. The UK for example requires employers to give 26 days of paid holiday leave (inclusive of public holidays). France, Spain and Germany requires 30 days.

To have an idea of how many paid holidays each country gets in total, have a look at this:

We’re not the lowest, but a little on the low side.

Of course, there are many other leaves to consider: maternity, paternity, maximum working hours, eldercare, medical, time off for National Service etc. – however, these countries also have their own versions of these. Some European countries have as much as 1 year of maternity leave. Some legislate leave for long service. There are also many region specific holidays.

We shall leave this out of consideration for now and study paid leave exclusively.

These countries hail from single nationality, single race, single religion environments. Singapore has a wide mix of race and religion, perhaps we could invest into celebrating a few more national holidays?

Here are some that could be reinstated:

  • The Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday
  • Saturday after Good Friday and Easter Monday
  • Vesakhi (a Sikh festival)
  • Lao-Tzu’s (and many other Chinese God’s birthday)
  • Thaipusam


Thaipusam was once a public holiday until 1968. When faced with British withdrawal and the need to compete in global markets, the government then decided to reduce the total number of public holidays, among other things.

The decision on which public holidays to give up was reached after consultation with religious groups. Muslims chose to give up Prophet Muhamed’s Birthday as well as an extra day for Hari Raya Puasa. Christians chose to give up the Saturday after Good Friday and Easter Monday. Hindus had to choose between Thaipusam and Deepavali, and chose the latter. Buddhists, who comprised the largest faith and had only one public holiday to begin with, Vesak Day, were not asked to give it up.

It has been about 50 years since the decision was made, perhaps it is time now to consider increasing the number of holidays to better represent the fabric of our society.

The problem that the administration had was that any move to reinstate any one festival as a public holiday will invite competing claims. If the intention is to add more than one holiday, this would not be a problem.

It would fit in nicely with the direction of the government; more holidays mean more family bonding time, a chance to rest, a chance to enjoy the fruit of our labour.



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