Social Musings: Rethink on public holidays



I THINK the country needs to reconsider its public holidays if we are to rise above the poverty cycle that has Malawi captive. I am an economist, so my argument is from the economic perspective.

I have laid out my economic and productivity argument below:


Students of economics well appreciate the famous Cobb- Douglas Production Possibility Frontier (PPF) which simplifies production factors to labour and capital; the quality and mix of labour and capital determines the extent to which marginal returns continue to be positive.

In Malawi, there are a lot of allocative inefficiency problems-you have less useful departments that are over staffed and more useful departments that are under staffed. You have people holding positions that do not perfectly match their expertise and are thus under utilized.

With GDP per capita of $280 and a Human Development Index of 0.414, Malawi’s status is considered low income by the World Bank, Least Developed Country by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and low human development by the United Nations Development Programme. National welfare surveys confirm the country’s poverty is also compounded by a wide income inequality.


Against this pervasive poverty, Malawi is a country that should work hard – where other countries walk, Malawi should run, where other countries run,

Malawi should fly. Nonetheless, it is ironical to note that Malawi in its dire poverty can afford to underutilize time and labour in the name of many holidays.

On top of the 104 days for weekend in a year, Malawians observe several holidays. There is Kamuzu Day, Chilembwe Day and Martyrs Day (all with almost similar meaning). There are religious related holidays; Easter, Christmas and some holiday that follow moon sighting. This is in addition to Labour Day, Mother’s Day and Republic Days.

For a year of 365 days, the total weekend days and holidays could get close to one-third of a year. Of the remaining two-thirds, Malawians work for one-third of a day. If we do crude arithmetic to get number of working days in a year, here is the calculation: 365-120 days = 245 | 245x 0.33 = 80.85 or 81 days to the nearest. Meaning Malawians could be working 81 days a year.

What does that mean? It means a typical person or household has to produce slightly more than 4 times its consumption requirement per day to meet consumption for 365 days. It is over expecting that a country in dire poverty can graduate from its status with this kind of practice.

Furthermore, it means labour in Malawi is expensive. People are paid for putting less of their service. Here then are proposals:

First of all, collapse Kamuzu Day, Chilembwe Day and Martyrs Day into one Hero’s Day: This will reduce public holidays from current 3 to 1 and the nation will gain 2 more productive days.

Secondly, forfeit holidays that fall on weekends: When a holiday falls on a weekend, it should be considered done. The practice of having a holiday on week day because it fell on weekend should stop. In this year, Labour Day and Kamuzu Day both fell on weekends and holidays were observed on Monday. That should stop.

Lastly, reduce maternity leave from three months to one month: The current provision for three months of maternity leave is counterproductive and against 50-50 gender equality campaign. Not many will say this but truly it makes having female employs in an organization an expensive decision.

Take a company with 50 women in reproductive age and say ten fall pregnant every two years, the company loses 30 (10×3 ) months of labour every two years. If each employee earns a K100, 000 per month, the loss in monetary value is K3 million.

But that is not all, there is reduced productivity at the company. If the company decided to hire temporary staff to fill the gap created by those on leave, it could have spent another K3 million and in total spend K6 million just to maintain output level.

The current maternity leave period makes women less attractive as employees. We hear some nonsense borrowed from developed countries about paternity leave. My foot! Let countries that have developed enjoy such luxury but definitely not in Malawi.


Concerned Economist

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