Filipinos Are Laid-back Workers – A Thorough Look on Public Holidays

According to, the Philippines currently has 24 public holidays for 2020. Regardless of the day the actual holiday will fall on, Filipinos will be taking a break from their work for about 8% of the total working days in a year (with Saturday being considered as a working day). This percentage of holidays is actually one of the highest all over the world! Can you believe that?? Let’s compare it with some countries.

In terms of the economic powerhouses China, US, UK, Singapore and Japan, Japan has the most number of public holidays with 21, followed by China with 19, US and Singapore with 14 apiece and with the UK at the last spot with a measly 8 public holidays. So what gives? In terms of richer cultures such as in China and Japan, holidays are more but they do not easily reflect the economic status of one country by way of the number of times an employee will be off work (and actually get paid). Let’s then look at some of developing countries similar to the Philippines such as Thailand and Malaysia. Thailand has 22 public holidays, which are within range against the Philippines, and economically – wise, they are not too far off. Malaysia has 20 public holidays for 2019, but they are sure to be more developed than the Philippines economically by a notch (or even several notches). With this, does it mean that the economic status is not directly proportional to how many times an employee gets off work due to public holidays? A lingering question that is still awaiting a concrete answer.

Aside from public holidays, employees are also entitled for paid annual leaves mandated by the government in which companies should abide to. Let’s look at this angle to somehow check whether this can be considered as the answer. Let’s consider all employees that have on-board  with a company for less than a year for comparison purposes. Philippine employees are entitled to 5 days annual leave, which is the lowest compared to all the countries we tried to compared with here in this blog. China also has the same number of allowed annual leaves while Thais are entitled with 6 annual leaves and the Singaporeans gets 7 leaves annually. Malaysians on the other hand, gets 8 days leave annually while the Americans and the Japanese gets 10 apiece annually. And the finally, probably the luckiest of them all, the Brits gets a staggering 25 days (at least) of annual leave. With that being said, being one of the lowest entitlement on annual leaves, are Filipinos now considered as overworked and totally underpaid? There is still no concrete basis so we need to look on this further.

Combining both the public holidays and the approved annual leaves, we then resorted to the following hierarchy:

1. United Kingdom – 33 days
2. Japan – 31 days
3. Philippines – 29 days
4. Thailand – 28 days
5. Malaysia – 28 days
6. United States – 24 days
7. China – 24 days
8. Singapore – 21 days

In this manner, the Philippines is ranked 3rd among the highest number of combined holidays and annual leaves, only inferior to Japan and the UK. Please take note that local holidays are not considered here in this study, so it is safe to say that the total holidays can increase (applicable most probably to all countries mentioned here as well). But considering that the Philippine Employment culture discourages absenteeism in any manner, most Filipinos are forced to work even on Holidays or even to the point of not availing their annual leaves. This is mostly true with fast paced Philippine companies and is a prevalent culture then and up until now. The culture is that the longer you render / avail leaves, the lower your working performance can be perceived, and this should stop.

In summary, Philippines may be at the forefront of having the highest number of annual leaves and public holidays but there are still a lot of Filipinos complaining that they do need time off work. But with all the mandated leaves / holidays every Filipino employee is entitled to, how come they don’t avail it? Here are some of the top reasons:

1. Company / Superior restriction due to work – related constraints
2. Working during holidays gets paid more
3. Recurring dilemma / notion that longer / frequent absences means lower working performance

If we are to weigh in on the situation, we really have a reason to complain. But if we just need to understand the employee rights, we really don’t need to complain that much. We just need to make sure to keep being professional even with long absences, doing what is tasked and do more as you can. This way, the stereotype of long absence means low performance will be erased from the Philippine culture. The Philippine employee workforce is definitely as competent as anybody else in the world, we just need to lead them through it by example.