Can Russia's economy afford Christmas?

After a 10-day break for New Year and Christmas, Russians are back at work – a week behind the rest of the world. Russians had at least 120 days off last year, including weekends. But are these breaks deserved? Or are the long holidays taking

Vacant chairs, abandoned desks and half-empty streets. Although the Christmas and New Year holidays are over, it is hard to find a Moscovite hurrying to get back to work.

Central Moscow streets, usually jammed with traffic, are actually moving this week, showing that many Russians ignored January 9 as the first official workday of the year. Many have extended their holidays till next week.

That leads to what economists call the ‘holiday hangover’ syndrome. In monetary terms it equates to losses of nearly 2% of Russia’s Gross Domestic Product.

Trust Bank economist Vladimir Bragin says Russia's pays dearly for the slowdown in economic activity during holiday periods.

I think that 10 days of pure holidays mean about 20 days of stress and hangover – this is too high price,” Bragin said.

But while an estimated $US 30 billion in lost productivity may seem a lot, Natalia Orlova, economist of Alfa Bank, believes it’s nothing to lose sleep over.

“This is just a fact to take into account. World banks, for example, have to take into account that in January the number of transactions in general is much lower and as a result more employees can take vacation in January,” Orlova said.

Debates over whether the Christmas break is too long will go on.  Meanwhile, economists throughout the world, including Russia, continue to calculate the cost of the holiday season to national GDPs.