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Japan suggests 4-day working week

Tokyo: Japan, the country where ‘karoshi’ or ‘death by overwork’ rumors teem as workers often put in over 100 hours of overtime service for months, is looking to begin a four-day workweek to enhance work-life balance.

Recently, Japan had released its annual economic policy guidelines, which suggested companies let their employees opt for four-day work weeks rather than five. The Japanese government proposals aim to improve the country’s work-life balance and encourage the salaried class to spend less time at work.

In an Indian Express report, Japan’s new economic policy guideline recommends companies reduce workdays because an extra day off would encourage employees to spend time outside of their offices. This, in turn, would boost the economy. The government further said that a four-day working week would help companies maintain experienced and capable staff who might otherwise have to resign their jobs to dedicate more time to family. As a result, there would be more time for people to take up part-time jobs or earn educational qualifications in their spare time.

The Japanese government anticipates this move will convince more young people to engage in romantic activities, get married, have children, and solve the nation’s birth rate crisis.

The Covid-19 pandemic had already changed the way Japanese corporations worked. Although several companies continue to be fixed and traditional in their approach towards employee management, political leaders are hopeful of persuading them to allow flexible work hours, remote working, and other such practices even after the global health crisis ends.

Martin Schulz, Chief Policy Economist, Global Market Intelligence Unit, Fujitsu Ltd said ‘The government is very keen for this change in attitude to take root at Japanese companies. During the pandemic, companies have shifted to new ways of operating, and they are seeing a gradual increase in productivity. Companies are having their employees work from home or remotely, at satellite offices or at their customers’ locations, which can be far more convenient and productive for many.’

However, there are a few drawbacks to Japan’s plans as with limited youth joining the workforce, the country is already witnessing a labor shortage. Furthermore, there are anxieties among employees that lesser work hours would mean a wage cut. And since the Japanese government has suggested that the four-day workweek be kept optional, employees choosing to work for a lesser number of days per week may be accused of not being fully committed to the company’s well-being.


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