Workers in Japan encouraged to leave work at 3pm every last Friday of the month

The campaign is part of a general push to crackdown on excessive working hours following the suicide of an ad agency worker that was ruled to be a ‘death by overwork’

The government hopes promoting more free time will boost the economy
The government hopes promoting more free time will boost the economy

Japan’s government is urging employees to leave the office early every last Friday of the month, hoping to crackdown on a culture of workaholics while providing a shot in the arm for the economy.

The Premium Friday campaign, which launched this week, is calling on workers to leave the office at 3pm once a month, and spend time with family, dine out or go shopping, according to Japan Times.

It is hoped that the initiative will encourage people to spend more money on food, in shops and on travel. All Nippon Airways, the country’s largest airline, is offering special discounts from Friday in a bid to entice people to take trips.

“We hope this will encourage people to rest and to leave the office earlier,” an ANA spokeswoman told Japan Times. “Participation by the government and companies is needed to push forward reforms (in the working culture),” she added.

The campaign is part of a general push by the government to limit excessive working hours following the suicide of an employee at ad agency Dentsu that was reportedly ruled to be a “death by overwork”, and cast a harsh spotlight on Japan’s deeply entrenched problem of overtime and burnout. The president of Dentsu stepped down in the wake of the tragic incident and the company has since announced new measures such as switching off the office lights between 10pm and 5am.

The government hopes that one welcome side-effect of the push to promote free time will be stimulus to the economy.

According to Reuters, both the labour force and the population is shrinking in Japan. The country wants to reduce working hours to encourage women to work and get men more involved in raising and caring for children. Increased leisure time should also mean more time between the sheets to boost the birth rate, the agency reports.

Last month, Internet company Yahoo Japan Corp said that it was thinking about reducing the number of working days to four-a-week by 2020.

“By giving employees more freedom on how to work, we’re hoping that employees choose a style that lets them perform at their best, so that we boost productivity,” a company spokeswoman told Bloomberg at the time.

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