The japanese government are worried about people working too hard and killing themselves from overwork, called karoshi, from which 200 people died last year.
Its chief spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Japan must “end long working hours so people can balance their lives with things like raising a child or taking care of the elderly“.
Almost 1 in 4 Japanese employees work over 50 hours a week compared to 1 in 8 in Britain and the US and 1 in 12 in France. On average Japanese workers take only half their paid holiday entitlement as taking time off is considered an “inconvenience to their colleagues”
So they’ve introduced Premium Friday. On the last Friday of each month employees will be encouraged to leave the office at 1500 and make an early start to the weekend.
The purpose is two-fold: to enable people to recover from working the longest working hours in the world and to give the retail sector a much-needed boost by encouraging people to go shopping. It’s been estimated that if everyone takes advantage of this it could generate £900 million extra consumer spending every month.
The Japan Business Federation (Kaidenren) is urging its 1300 members to take part and the Trade Minister has promised not to make any appointments on Premium Friday afternoons.
However Mitsubishi Electric is currently under investigation for allegedly forcing its staff to work excessive hours and it’s not known how many people will break the habits of a lifetime in a period of economic uncertainty and job insecurity.
Also people might just go home to rest or shop on Friday instead of Saturday. After all if they are cutting down their hours they won’t have the money they earn with overtime to spend will they?
Getting work-life balance right is never easy when people have to work long hours to maintain their standard of living.
Japan has the longest lived people in the world and also the most rapidly ageing society with a quarter of the population over 65. This is not without its problems.
Because of the declining birth-rate this proportion will increase to 40% by 20160. However scientists have now declared that for healthy people old age should be classified as 75, not 65.
So will the government delay pensions and extend people’s working lives? They probably will otherwise there will be no-one working and paying tax to support the elderly in future years.