Australians told to take a break for the economy

Thu Dec 4, 2008 3:52am EST
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By James Grubel

CANBERRA (Reuters) - As Australia fights to head off recession, the national government on Thursday urged workers to take a holiday to help stimulate the economy.

The country's 11 million workers have hoarded about 121 million days of paid-leave entitlements which the government wants to unlock to help stimulate a tourism sector hard hit by the global downturn.

Australian Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson said tourism officials would hold meetings with major employer groups next week to kickstart a "No Leave, No Life" campaign.

Ferguson has set his eyes on the A$31 billion ($20 billion) of holiday pay owed to workers and is leading the push to force business to make sure employees take their accrued holidays, and to encourage Australians to holiday at home.

"It is good for business, good for employees and potentially good for our tourism industry as it faces some tough times because of the global financial crisis," Ferguson said.

The holiday campaign comes after official data found Australia's economy grew by just 0.1 percent in the September quarter, its slowest rate of growth in eight years as consumers pull back on spending.

Australia's tourism industry is worth about A$40 billion a year, or about 4 percent of gross domestic product, generating about 500,000 jobs. Tourists from overseas account for about 25 percent of the industry.

But the global downturn has led to a sharp decline in visitor numbers, particularly from key markets such as Japan and the United States, both now in recession, and from Britain.   Continued...