Opinions Mon, 7 Jan 2019

Ace Ankomah writes: Too many Holidays

Something from #Rants 9/6/2009

I am also of the view that already Ghana has too many public holidays, and that there is virtually no space to add more. Instead of adding on holidays, we should be exploring the prospect of reducing the number of public holidays on our calendar.

I would commend to us all, the observations of the late Archer CJ, captured in his concluding words even in his dissenting opinion in New Patriotic Party v. Attorney-General as follows:

“Before this action was instituted, Ghana had ten public holidays throughout the year and second only to Northern Ireland, throughout the whole world, which has eleven public holidays… Ghana has more holidays than England and Wales and Scotland, each with nine holidays. Can a developing country like Ghana afford a string of holidays which at times can be boring? I leave the answer to Parliament and the executive. The British colonial administration introduced six public holidays in this country in 1899. We have ten and I wonder what the number would be by the year 2000.”

The Chief Justice’s words were prophetic, and his worries were not unfounded. Currently, we have thirteen statutory holidays, three more than we had when Justice Archer penned and read these words. We are debating adding even more days. What we should be debating, I think, is how to reduce the number of holidays. These thirteen paid working days that are observed as public holidays are in addition to the paid leave days guaranteed to all workers under article 24(2) of the Constitution and numerous provisions of the Labour Act.

Let us do some ‘rough-and-unscientific’ but graphic calculation.

Year 2009 has 365 days, out of which 104 days fall on weekends, leaving 261 working days. Out of the 261 working days, there are 13 public holidays (assuming there are no Additional Holidays), which increase the number of non-working days to 117 and reduce the number of working days to 248.

If we assume that the average number of leave days is a conservative 20, then that further increases the non-working days to 137 and reduces the total working days to 228. In other words, all things being equal, the average Ghanaian worker will spend roughly 40% of his or her time on a vacation, holiday or weekend this year.

If you consider that the actual work-time is 8 hours of the day (a third of the day), the percentage of non-work time increases exponentially.

It is in the light of the above that I hold the humble view that some of the dates that are currently marked as holidays should be simply commemorated without subjecting the entire workforce of the nation to statute-enforced, punishment-threatened rest days.

For instance, we always commemorate Armistice Day. It is not a holiday, and that has not devalued that date in any way. For example, I do not see why Africa Day should be marked by rest, when work, and not more rest, is what Africa needs right now.

According to an SABC Digital news report dated May 24, 2015, only five African countries observe Africa Day as a holiday, namely Ghana, Mali, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Just look at that list! Are these countries that are so economically sound that they need rest days? Africa Day is not a holiday in even Ethiopia, the seat of the African Union!

Likewise, it is time to debate among ourselves whether Easter Monday, May Day, Farmers Day, Boxing Day etc. could also be commemorated without being made public holidays.

Similarly, the proposed Founder’s Day or Founders’ Day, should simply be commemorated. We respect our founders (to the extent that we truly have any.) But I am pretty certain they would want us to roll up our sleeves and get to work harder to build a better Ghana, and not simply add another lazy day to sit at home.

Further, I would suggest that we consider returning to the days when Saturdays were half-working days. If we have 40-hour working weeks now, increasing that by even 10% (i.e. an additional 4 hours on Saturday) might be a great step in the right direction.

Columnist: Ace Anan Ankomah