China experiments with longer weekend to boost domestic shopping

Shoppers milling outside the Sasseur Group's shopping mall in Chongqing, China.
Shoppers milling outside the Sasseur Group's shopping mall in Chongqing, China.SASSEUR GROUP

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - 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 brand-name goods in the "night economy" by getting retailers to extend their business hours, Beijing News reported on Monday (Jan 14), 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 company that manages trusts and estates, found a four-day work week resulted in more productivity. But a two-year experiment cutting working hours - while maintaining pay - for nurses at a home for the elderly, in Gothenburg, Sweden, showed that costs outweighed the benefits.