Japanese company considers three-day weekend as country attempts to reverse long-hours culture

Research shows that staff at nearly a quarter of companies in the country are working more than 80 hours of overtime a month

Chloe Farand
Friday 13 January 2017 17:22 GMT
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Office workers are reflected in a glass railing as they cross street during lunch hour in Tokyo
Office workers are reflected in a glass railing as they cross street during lunch hour in Tokyo

A Japanese company is considering introducing a three-day weekend for its employees in a bid to tackle a culture of overworking.

Internet company Yahoo Japan Corp is thinking about reducing the number of working days to four-a-week by 2020.

The move comes as the country is driving efforts to put pressure on companies to abandon the long-working-hours culture while boosting productivity.

“We don’t see the three-day weekend system as the end goal but an option,” company spokeswoman Megumi Yagita told Bloomberg.

“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,” she added.

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The Japanese government and businesses will launch a campaign from February designed to let employees leave early on the last Friday of every month to spend more time with their families.

But Japan is known for its rigid work practices and the measures come amid a bleak time for Japanese workers.

The suicide of a 24-year-old woman, who had just joined Japan’s advertising giant Dentsu, prompted the company’s president to resign earlier this month.

Dentsu have since announced new measures such as switching off the office lights between 10pm and 5am.

The Japanese even have a word to describe death by overwork or related illness or suicide - "karoshi".

Research for a government paper suggests staff at nearly a quarter of companies in the country clock up 80 hours of overtime a month.

Although extra work is capped at 45 hours a week, companies have been able to waive the regulation in agreement with some unions and employees often push staff to under-report the hours they work.

Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Japan needs to “end of the norm of long working hours so people can balance their lives with things like raising a child or taking care of the elderly".

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe commissioned a task force to tackle long working hours, expand the workforce, and improve working conditions for non-contracted employees.

The "work style reform" is expected to be revealed by March.

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