What is the working culture like in Japan
Work is all of life
That is why there should be more free time. But the Japanese are not so easily lured out of the office.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took a little break. He left the office shortly after 3 p.m. on the last Friday in February. He meditated with the Minister of Agriculture at a temple and then enjoyed a short open-air concert in Ueno Park. Abe stated that the experience enriched his life. In the evening Abe complied with his consumption obligations and dined with two actors.
Abe's high-profile break is the prelude to a campaign by the government and business associations, “Premium Friday”. At 3 p.m. on the last Friday of the month, workers and employees should now leave the workplace to consume and enjoy life. That was how the government came up with it. But so far it has not turned into a mass movement. Department stores reported more sales than last February-Friday a year ago. Some tour operators were satisfied because offers for the weekend that lasted a few hours went well. Special offers found their buyers. Many Japanese, however, commented in surveys that given their workload, they did not have time to leave the office earlier on Friday. Even in the ministries, many lights were still on in the evening.
It is apparently not that easy to convince the Japanese of shorter working hours and to change the work culture, although the country knows working hours until late at night and the concept of karoshi, death through overwork. In general, it is not appropriate in Japan to go in the evening when the supervisor is still working. Japan's employees use an average of 8.8 days, or less than half of their vacation time, according to the government. In the group of seven (G7), Japan is the country with the third highest number of hours worked per year, after the United States and Italy. According to the OECD, the average Japanese works 348 hours a year more than a German worker. Converted to German conditions, this corresponds to about three months of extra work per year.
The campaign met with limited approval from the companies. Less than 40 percent of large companies wanted to take part in the campaign. Some let their employees go early if they started an hour earlier on Friday morning. Other companies with liberal working from home rules advised their employees to use this option. For small and medium-sized companies or businesses, the question of a shortened Friday was hardly a problem anyway, because they often have trouble finding or paying enough employees.
The early close campaign coincides with government efforts to reduce overtime. In almost a quarter of companies, some employees work more than 80 hours of overtime a month. The government has now proposed limiting the number to an average of 60 per month.
The government is making a lot of noise about encouraging the Japanese to consume more with “Premium Friday”. Economically, however, you shouldn't expect too much. According to a much-cited study by the Dai-ichi Life Research Institute, “Premium Friday” could increase consumption by around 100 billion yen (830 million euros) over the year. With total private consumption of around 300 trillion yen a year, that is negligible.
From Patrick Welter
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