Page last updated at 01:15 GMT, Friday, 14 August 2009 02:15 UK

Algeria switches weekend, again

Algerians cool off on Sidi Fredj's beach, 20 kms west of Algiers
Algerians like to relax and cool off at the beach during summer weekends

Algeria is changing its weekend, a transition that has caused considerable confusion and given public sector workers a three-day break.

The country has had a Thursday-Friday weekend since 1976, but is now aligning itself with other states in the region that have a Friday-Saturday weekend.

Business people working internationally have welcomed the change.

But there are also concerns that with Thursday no longer a day off, working hours and some trade will be lost.

Absenteeism worries

There is considerable confusion about how the country will adjust to the new weekend, the BBC's Mohammed Arezki Himeur reports from Algiers.

Banks, shops, and services such as medical or dental practices have always remained open and widely used on Thursdays, and were already in the habit of closing on Friday and Saturday.

Now they are worried that - even if they open on Saturday - they will lose up to a day of business as people will work on Thursday, observe the Muslim holy day on Friday, and then stay at home until the new week starts, our correspondent reports.

He says that to compensate, some are considering opening on Friday morning, before the day's prayers.

There are also worries that the change will lead to a rise in absenteeism, as employees take time off to pay bills or complete other chores during the working week, our correspondent adds.

Public sector workers took advantage of the transition to the new weekend this week by taking three days off.

Algeria established the Thursday-Friday weekend in 1976 in what was seen as an assertion of Algeria's post-colonial identity as it tried to distinguish itself from the West.

Business people who deal with international markets or companies have long complained that the country has lost hundreds of millions of dollars each year because of the practice.

Often restricted to just three normal working days a week, they had campaigned for the Friday-Saturday weekend that is observed in many other Arab countries.

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