Japan has some of the longest working hours in the world. 80 hours of overtimes are often unpaid and 63 percent of Japanese respondents felt guilty for taking paid leave.
Long work hours don’t necessarily mean high productivity. In fact, Japan has the lowest productivity among G-7 nations.
‘Death by overwork’ –
The term “karoshi” translates to “death by overwork” and is a legal term recognized as a cause of death. An employee of Japan’s largest advertising firm, Dentsu, jumped to her death in 2015. The cause was said to have been depression caused by overwork.
After the death, Dentsu made changes within the company, including turning off lights in the office at 10 p.m. in an effort to force employees to leave.
A cultural challenge still looms –
The government considered several initiatives, including making it mandatory to take at least five vacations per year and requiring a “rest” period between the end of one day and the start of another.
In 2016, a new holiday “Mountain Day” was started, bringing Japan’s number of annual public holidays to 16.
The government launched an initiative called Premium Fridays, in which it encouraged companies to allow their employees to leave at 3 p.m. on the last Friday of the month. But a study found that not even 4 percent of employees in Japan actually left early on the first Premium Friday.
Japan is facing labour crisis where the population is expected to go down from 127 million to 88 million in 2065. To bridge this gap Japan is focusing on their robot technology rather than hiring immigrants.
Whether the technology will prove to be a better solution to achieve work life balance in Japan is yet to be seen.