Japan, known for its tough work culture, is making changes to the standard working week that would have been difficult to imagine a few years ago. Read all the details in my article!
Japan released its annual economic policy directives this month. The document contains plans to encourage employers to switch to a four-day working week. Companies are encouraged to introduce an additional shortened working week to retain qualified staff, support employees who want to continue their education or care for family members. In addition, the extra day off will encourage people to spend more money, spend time with friends, get married and have children. This is especially true as Japan’s population ages and shrinks.
Microsoft Japan introduced a temporary three-day weekend back in August 2019. According to the company, this has resulted in a 40% increase in productivity, lower energy consumption and lower paper consumption.
“The five-day working week has never been a fixed fact,” says Robert Byrd, professor of business law at the University of Connecticut. He adds that in the early 1900s, unions fought to abolish the six-day working week.
The four-day working week movement gained momentum in the 1970s, and some thought the transition was imminent. However, the movement died down.
However, five decades later, several factors converged at once – labor shortages, mass layoffs, long periods of remote work, and increased worker mobility. Byrd, like other experts around the world, believes that the idea now has a great chance.
“Young people demand more from the work environment than just a salary,” says Professor Robert Bird. “They want to work with someone who believes in their values, and the four-day working week signals that the company cares about work-life balance.”
Globally, this approach is growing in popularity amid changes in the workplace caused by the pandemic.
- Spain launches a three-year voluntary experiment with a 32-hour working week, with other countries considering the idea.
- The prime ministers of New Zealand and Finland have also proposed moving to a four-day schedule.
- In 2019, the UK Labor Party campaigned promoting shorter workweeks over the next decade.
Peter Cheese, head of the UK government’s flexible working group, called the pandemic an opportunity for a generation to adopt flexible working hours.
Joe Ryle, a contributor to the UK 4-Day Week, notes that the idea of a 4-day working week is indeed gaining traction, not only in the UK, but around the world.
Some employers are also starting to move in this direction. Kickstarter announced plans to cut employees’ working hours without cutting wages next year.
However, most countries, including Japan, are still far from such radical changes. Many Japanese employers are concerned that labor productivity will lag and workers fear wage cuts.
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Alessandro Rocco Pietrocola is an entrepreneur and investor based in London and operating mainly in Europe, Asia and Oceania with main focus on UK, Baltic Countries, Russia, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Middle East and New Zealand as area of interest! At the moment is the CEO of Astorts Group. He is an UK FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) Approved Person and is has great experience as director of regulated companies. He uses to dedicate part of his life to inspire others and help them achieve the most out of their life. Since he was 20, he had successfully founded and managed several companies operating in the field of management consulting, wealth management and fintech. He loves travelling, he is a cigars lover, an amateur golfer and a dapper man.