Japan Pushes for Four-Day Workweek to Give Employees Time to Study, Socialize, Work More

Japan’s notoriously rigid work culture may soon come to an end as the government recently unveiled plans to have businesses adopt four-day workweeks.

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.

Early concerns: While many have expressed support over the proposal, experts in the labor and management sectors have voiced concerns about possible negative impacts a four-day workweek would bring.

  • Employers expressed worry the supposed increased productivity of a more motivated workforce may not be enough to compensate for the lost workday.

  • Some employees are concerned they will earn less if this is implemented.

Test cases: Some companies in Japan had implemented shorter workweeks long before the government began considering such an initiative.

  • In 2019, Microsoft Japan instituted a temporary three-day weekend which resulted in a 40% increase in productivity and reduced electricity consumption, the Washington Post reported.

  • Yahoo Japan Corp. has been allowing its employees to work only four days a week for those who need it since 2017, according to Japan Times.

Featured Image via Financial Times

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