Japan proposes four-day week in milestone move

With some workers logging 100 hours’ overtime in a month, and “karoshi" – death by overworking – a common trope, Japan hopes to change the narrative and fight back for workplace freedom. We say yes.

Somehow, someway, somewhere, a five-day week – with just two days to kick off your boots – was implemented. That was someone’s idea. And that person hadn’t worked a day in their life. Bloody capitalism. Bloody rich people. Bloody nonsense.

But now, after centuries of suffering and Sunday evenings spent plaintively wondering why me?”, countries are fighting back. Fighting for freedom and fighting for their livelihoods by introducing the four-day week.

It seems like a bold move, doesn’t it? To erase years of unquestionable tradition. But with Spain, New Zealand, Germany and Denmark proposing the four-dayer, it could become a reality – and one that Japan, where workers took only 52.4 per cent of entitled paid holiday in 2018, could follow pretty soon.

Political leaders are attempting to rattle the nerves of workaholic managers and overzealous CEOs, waving a flag for the enhanced benefits of reduced and flexible working hours: increased focus, efficiency and deadlines met. Less resentment towards your boss, more time to do stuff, rebuilding a zest for life you waved goodbye to at 18.

According to DW, the newly unveiled annual economic policy guidelines includes recommendations to companies that will permit staff to simply say no, I’d rather have a life than work for The Man” by opting to work four days a week instead of five. Go on, Japan.

In the campaign, the government in Tokyo teases the splendid benefits by telling companies they will be able to retain staff more effectively, with the one fewer working day allowing parents to raise a family or take care of elderly relatives.

Equally, it will hopefully encourage workers to spread their wings and gain additional educational qualifications, or even take on side jobs in addition to their regular employment” – which surely defeats the point of a four-dayer entirely?Anyway. One step at at time.

In the (we hope) tail-end of the pandemic, the Japanese government are hoping the one extra day off will encourage people to go out and spend their hard-earned cash and boost the economy, where it shrunk by 4.8 per cent last year – “[Japan’s] worst post-war quarterly contraction between April and June,” according to the BBC.

On top of all the helpful economic stuff: as the young have become born-again virgins and social dinosaurs in the past year, the four-day proposal also aims to give the young an opportunity to meet, shag, marry and have kids, as a way to propel the country’s falling birth rate, where it’s at a record low.

The government is really very keen for this change in attitude to take root at Japanese companies,” Martin Schulz, chief policy economist for Fujitsu Ltd’s Global Market Intelligence Unit, told DW.

Finally, on a more solemn note, the Japanese population has long-suffered illnesses and, in some cases, death, as a result of overworking, known as karoshi (literally, death by overwork). In a report by Wired this year, it found the Japanese government accepts 200 workplace injury claims for karoshi annually, but campaigners have put the toll at around 10,000 deaths”.

All things considered, with working up to 100 hours of overtime in a month still legal, the proposal of a four-day weekend in Japan sounds like a huge milestone.

Get a life. Save a life. Love your life. Introduce the four-dayer.

Right, I’m clocking off now.

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