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McKinsey's China oracle and his hits and misses

Updated: 2013-10-08 07:31
By Michael Barris ( China Daily)

McKinsey's China oracle and his hits and misses

He blew it. Back in January, Gordon Orr went out on a limb. The Shanghai-based director with United States-based management consulting firm McKinsey & Co predicted that China would surprise the world in 2013 by abolishing national holiday weeks.

With millions of Chinese just wrapping up their celebration of National Day, it's clear that his forecast missed the mark. But Orr, who has been publishing predictions for McKinsey for five years, admits that one was "more a hope than an expectation".

It was also just one of many calls Orr revisited recently as he graded his overall performance as a China prognosticator.

"Fifteen years ago, when the current structure of mandated vacation weeks was put into place, China's economy was very different," Orr, McKinsey Asia's director and chairman, explained in a report early this year titled "What's in store for China in 2013?"

"There was a real belief that, without mandated vacations, most workers would never get a holiday or have an opportunity to spend the income they were saving," Orr wrote. "Today, their compulsory holidays merely serve to saturate and overload the country's infrastructure - if anything, reducing the amount of money that people spend on travel and related services as more and more choose to stay at home."

Supporting the case for abolishing or at least phasing out vacation weeks, Orr wrote, was the ability of the contemporary middle class in China to "schedule their own vacations when they want to much more readily than they could in the past".

Years ago, "large numbers of State-owned and private-sector enterprises did not meet the legal requirements for vacations," Orr wrote. "But in the age of social media, even factory workers can now name and shame offending employers."

In various roles with New York-based McKinsey, one of the world's most prestigious management consultants, Orr has lived in China for nearly two decades.

During that time, he has been a frequent speaker at the World Economic Forum's "Summer Davos" meeting of political leaders, academics and journalists in Dalian.

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