Small Data: Does the UK have enough bank holidays?
- 21 April 2014
As you enjoy another bank holiday, are you thinking "why don't we have more of them", asks Anthony Reuben.
The UK has only eight bank holidays - except Scotland, which has nine - is that enough?
Before we begin thinking about this, a word for the pedants (and there's nothing wrong with a bit of pedantry). In the UK, Easter Monday is a bank holiday (except in Scotland, where banks are closed but not all areas observe the holiday). Good Friday is a common law holiday by convention or a public holiday, except in Scotland, where it's a bank holiday.
Scotland has nine bank holidays and also observes various public holidays on top of those, which are determined by local authorities.
Most people use the terms bank holiday and public holiday interchangeably, so I plan to do so as well.
The point is, in Japan they have loads more bank holidays than the UK does - twice as many - from Greenery Day in May to Respect for the Aged Day in September.
Places like Spain, South Korea and South Africa also have more public holidays than the UK does. There have been many attempts to calculate the cost of a bank holiday, which the Magazine reported on a couple of years ago. Figures have been bandied about including £2.3bn per holiday and a range from a gain of £1.1bn to a loss of £3.6bn.
The huge range of these estimates is because it's very hard to tell. It's easy to say how losses would be made by a car factory working three shifts a day and producing its maximum output. But in the UK's predominantly service-led economy, that is less of an issue. Indeed, a bank holiday may allow additional opportunities for companies to appeal to consumers.
When you look at current statistics on the economy, the thing worrying economists is not whether people are working enough hours, it's whether they are being productive enough in the hours they are working. There were estimates in 2012 that UK workers were producing a fifth less per hour than the average across the G7 group of industrialised countries. Maybe having a few extra days off would help the UK be more productive.
Unfortunately, the only member of the G7 group less productive than the UK has been Japan, which, as I mentioned, has many more public holidays than the UK does.
So we're back to square one.