The Lunar New Year is nearly upon us once again. Every year, millions upon millions of employees worldwide would be making travel arrangements to return to their hometowns to celebrate with family and friends. This year however, with the pandemic still surging on, companies and local governments in China are incentivising workers to avoid travel in hopes of containing the spread of the virus.
It has been reported that a number of firms have promised to give out cash bonuses and a slew of vouchers in an attempt to entice employees to stay and refrain from travel during the 15-day-long celebration. Many have offered shopping vouchers, movie tickets, entry passes to entertainment venues, and free meals to minimise the annual mass migration.
In 2020, the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic was not yet apparent during the Lunar New Year celebration. As such, many workers were able to travel back to their hometowns. Unfortunately, during the holidays the potential danger of the coronavirus had become much more obvious, prompting strict lockdowns and movement restrictions throughout the world. This left many workers stranded, unable to return to work and contributing to the massive decline in the global economy.
As an example of these new incentives, local officials in a district in Suzhou, China have offered to absorb half the cost of rentals to state-owned flats for employers, if they gave workers a cash bonus. The authorities have also warned that ‘unnecessary’ trips across cities could lead to a new wave of infections. Despite this, transport officials are less optimist, believing that residents would make an estimated 300 million train trips during the festive season this year, according to the South China Morning Post.
In an open letter to residents in an industrial town in Guangdong, southern China, authorities dangled treats and urged workers to enjoy the local spots instead.
“Reducing the risk of spreading the virus, protecting yourself and your family, these are the best presents you can give yourselves as well as your city. We sincerely suggest that you stay with Foshan for the 2021 new year,” they wrote.