A think tank (which I suspect has as little to do with thinking as it does tanks) has garnered significant press coverage (and a mention in GofaDM) after deciding that UK GDP would be significantly boosted if we did away with bank holidays.
If we temporarily accept the hypothesis that GDP is the best thing a nation can produce, and put to one side the fact that any gain is likely to benefit the very few at the expense of the many, I still fear that this “analysis” contains more schoolboy errors than the entire output of St Custard’s.
Off the top of my head, I could point to the following silly mistakes:
- The huge loss of GDP recently caused by the Banks might have been slowed (or even reduced) had they taken a few more holidays.
- The UK actually makes very little (trust me, I’ve tried buying stuff we make and it’s not easy), we are mostly a service economy. I’m not sure how many more haircuts, insurance policies and the like it is actually possible to sell (legally) in the extra days provided.
- Many people seem to do most of their consuming on bank holidays, without them I fear for the future of the DIY, sofa, travel and tourist businesses to name but a few.
- It is a common fallacy that working more hours produces more “stuff” which I thought Cyril Northcote Parkinson had de-bunked pretty successfully back in 1955. Whilst it is dangerous to generalise from a sample of one (particularly if that sample is me), I find that not only does it take me longer to do anything when I am working longer hours with less time off, I also tend to make more of a hash of the thing being done.
So, I fear that this plan would result in a poorer, unhappier nation which produces less work of a lower standard from an even smaller number of sectors – and one in which our bankers have way too much office time on their hands to produce dangerous, marginally legal (from the wrong side of the margin) financial products.
But, none of these represents the main thrust of my argument to retain – and indeed increase – our bank holidays. My argument is, in fact, hydrological. Over this current bank holiday weekend, most of the UK has seen more rainfall than in the preceding three months put together. If the government is serious about tackling drought – and the very severe (and real) economic impact thereof – it should be increasing our quota of bank holidays. Given the well-established fact that Tlaloc is a big fan of the bank holiday, we need to appeal to him to offer us his beneficence (in the from of precipitation) by adding some extras: especially in that difficult and dry September-to-March period where there are so few (and those that do exist are dedicated to other deities who are frankly failing to deliver on the cold, warm or occluded fronts).