Three or four (if Mid-Autumn Festival is near National Day) days of paid holiday are given, and the surrounding weekends are re-arranged so that workers in Chinese companies always have seven or eight continuous days of holiday. These national holidays were first started by the government for the PRC's National Day in 1999 and are primarily intended to help expand the domestic tourism market and improve the national standard of living, as well as allowing people to make long-distance family visits. The Golden Weeks are consequently periods of greatly heightened travel activity.
In 2004, there were calls for the Golden Week holidays to be cut back, due to their disruption of the regular economy.
In 2006, delegates to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference brought up proposals to cancel both the National Day and May Day Golden Weeks, arguing that the holidays have not achieved significant results in promoting internal consumption, which was the original intention for these long holiday weeks. Rather, the delegates said, these Golden Weeks have disrupted people's regular 5-day weekly schedule and is increasingly impeding commerce and international trade, as many key government agencies, especially those related to customs, tax/tariff collection, and legal affairs, are shut down for seven days. Instead, they proposed, these days off should be spread out to other traditional holidays not currently recognized as public holidays, including Mid-Autumn Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, and Qingming Festival. Golden Weeks were sustained as weekly holidays through 2007.
On 16 December 2007, China's official news agency said the Chinese population is to have a further three national holidays and lose only one of its golden weeks, the May Day holiday, according to the calendar reform that the Government has approved. May Day itself has now become a one-day holiday. Three traditional festivals—Mid-Autumn Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, and Qingming Festival—are added to the list of public holidays. The Spring Festival and National Day would remain three-day holidays, though they would be adjusted to prevent them from becoming seven or eight (if Mid-Autumn Festival is near National Day) consecutive days, as is the current practice. With this revision of the labour calendar, the Chinese government aims to recover the customs associated with traditional festivals and balance tourist demand during the weeks of holidays, according to the Xinhua News Agency. In practice, the new calendar, which came into force on 1 January 2008, will increase national holidays from 10 to 11 days. A spokesperson for the National Commission for Development and Reform said that the new plan would ratify Chinese traditions, better distribute holidays and prevent the “overcrowding” of the “golden weeks” when more people travel during the new holidays and during the periods of paid holidays.
In 2020, the holiday was exceptionally extended to limit the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic.