Since the economic bubble burst in Japan in the 1980s, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (and their forebearers) have been working to get the economy back on track. Japan, as with many other countries, did rebuild but were hit with another recent recession, where they saw things drop again. The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry are now launching a new initiative – Premium Friday! Let’s find out more about this new initiative and how it can help the Japanese workforce.
Many people have heard of “karoshi (過労死)”, meaning “death from overwork”, literally Japanese people working themselves to death. Especially in recent months, there has been a number of high-profile cases in the media where people have sadly lost their lives due to overwork.
Even for those that do not work to such a high degree, overworking is a big issue, with people putting in many additional unpaid hours every month. This problem is not new in Japan; the first recorded death due to overworking was reported in 1969. It is so common that overworking is said to be part of the Japanese culture. However, even at lower levels, this can have a big impact on Japanese society.
One such aspect is the economy. If people are working until late each day, then they have less opportunity to spend their hard earned money, therefore putting less back into the economy. But, most importantly, overworking means a big negative impact on the wellbeing of everyone involved. People who are stuck in offices for long hours are less able to socialize with their friends, family, and colleagues. Even if people are able to go out after work, the hours in which shops, bars and restaurants are open are almost done. So how can Japan help to reverse this trend?
The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry studied the spending habits of people in Japan. They noted that people spend more money after payday, which is usually on the last Friday of each month. However, due to people still being in the office, less money is being spent than there could be. Also, people in this current era tend to prefer to purchase cheaper alternatives, therefore putting less money into the economy. So, due to their overworking culture and this frugal era, the Japanese economy is not growing as much as they want it to.
Commencing on the 24th of February 2017, Premium Friday has already begun. Employees in applicable companies are able to leave work early on the last Friday of every month! Around 130 companies have joined the initiative, which allows employees to use their leave time of any flexible time scheme to be allowed to leave early on these days. Big companies such as SoftBank Group and Suntory are involved, and it is hoped that this will begin to create a less strict and pressured atmosphere. Even the Prime Minister of Japan is getting involved; he left work early in order to engage in meditation at a temple in Tokyo! It is hoped that by letting employees leave early, this will allow people to socialize, improve their wellbeing and improve the economy.
Overworking is a big problem in Japan and, although Premium Friday isn’t set up specifically to solve this issue, it may help to start changing opinions and the atmosphere in Japanese workplaces. It will be interesting to see whether this initiative does improve the economy, or whether the overworked will simply use it to rest!
Premium Friday Website *Japanese only