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Japan pushes for four-day workweek


Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
I thought this was a joke, but it appears the government has already set up panels and policy guidelines to debate this issue further.

Work-life balance: The recommendation for an optional shorter workweek is detailed in the country's annual economic policy guidelines finalized by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's Cabinet on Friday, Japan Times reported.
  • While the initiative has long been proposed, it gained traction due to the COVID-19 pandemic so people could spend more time at home.
  • The changes are reportedly meant to give employees more time for their family, education, and social life.
  • People with family-care responsibilities will no longer need to quit their jobs, while those who want to study more or get extra work on the side can finally do so.
  • A shorter workweek will also reportedly address the challenges caused by the country's labor shortage.

Experts are divided, however, on whether the new initiative, intended to address challenges posed by the country's labor shortage, will be widely accepted, with labor and management both voicing concerns about possible unwanted outcomes. For employers, while people working four days a week may become more motivated, this may not improve their productivity enough to compensate for the lost workday. Employees, meanwhile, fear pay cuts.

Lucky 会社員! We free-lancers will still be drudging every day. :)
For the future of humanity, I hope something like this can be implemented. The last 100 years have seen drastic increases in employee productivity, but little reduction in the amount of time people are working. People should be able to enjoy their time more.

The biggest hurdle would be sharing this across the board. Minimum wage workers wouldn't be able to instantly work 20% less because employers would have a lot of difficulty instantly increasing wages while still staffing as they do.

I'm self-employed, and work between 25-40 hours a week, and the only way I can reduce that is changing my pricing, and to be frank, if I increased my prices, I'd probably still work as much and just bank the rest.

That said, even if it takes 20 years to fully implement, it starts by talking about it, and making it into a common sense idea.
The four-day week is a raging success in Iceland and seems to work for both sides.

Productivity remained the same or improved in the majority of workplaces, researchers said. [...] The trials led unions to renegotiate working patterns, and now 86% of Iceland's workforce have either moved to shorter hours for the same pay or will gain the right to, the researchers said. Workers reported feeling less stressed and at risk of burnout and said their health and work-life balance had improved. They also reported having more time to spend with their families, do hobbies and complete household chores. Will Stronge, director of research at Autonomy, said: "This study shows that the world's largest-ever trial of a shorter working week in the public sector was by all measures an overwhelming success. "It shows that the public sector is ripe for being a pioneer of shorter working weeks - and lessons can be learned for other governments."

Hitachi Ltd., Fast Retailing Co. (Uniqlo), Mizuho Financial Group Inc., and Panasonic Holdings Corp. are just a few of the Japanese companies that have already introduced or plan to introduce four-day workweeks in the current fiscal year.

The change, triggered partly by a growing labor shortage brought on by a rapidly aging population and dwindling birthrates as well as changing lifestyles and expectations, has the potential to rewrite the country's work landscape. For one, it would widen the gap in days off between large and small companies. [...]Hitachi said it does not plan to reduce the salaries of those choosing the four-day option, but will ask them to make up the difference in work hours over a five-day week by working longer when they are in the office. [...] In the past, employees often chose to quit to care for elderly relatives or children. Allowing workers to choose four-day workweeks would give them more time to attend to the domestic front and allow them to retain their jobs in the company.

It will be interesting to see if it will be company wide or just certain groups. The question is will it stay or or will it be scrapped for "reasons". Is it more than just a PR stunt?
For every modest suggestion to modernise Japan, such as reducing the use of inkan and the fax machine, there seems to be determined resistance by a hard core of people, and the proposal never seems to take root. I can't see this spreading beyond a few large flagship companies.
All of this is very good news, its a trend that has been more discussed everywhere, in Japan it will probably face some resistance but the fact that some big companies already STARTED discussing about it, is anyway a good thing, Im surprised to be honest lol
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