Japan promotes 4-day work-week option

The government is supporting the proposal to let employees choose a four-day work week in its annual economic policy guideline.
By: | June 22, 2021

Finalised last Friday by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s Cabinet, the policy aims to improve the work-life balance for workers who have family care responsibilities or need more time off to acquire new skills. 

Opinions vary on whether the new policy will address challenges arising from the country’s labour shortage as intended depending on the viewpoints of employers or employees. 

Employers generally believe that though people working four days a week may become more motivated, the shortened work week may lead to a loss in productivity. On the other hand, employees are concerned that their pay may be cut due to the reduced number of working hours. 

The new policy is expected to help people with family-care responsibilities avoid the need to quit their jobs, promote upskilling and re-skilling, and help more people take on side jobs, the government said. 

The ongoing pandemic is also helping the four-day work week gain acceptance as more employees work from home. 

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in late April recommended the government to take policy measures to facilitate adoption of the system. 

Working fewer days is expected to promote “diversified working styles” and prompt workers with new skills to move to growing industries such as IT, said the LDP. 

READ: Japan’s older workers are motivated to work longer

At a key economic and fiscal policy panel meeting in mid-April where the promotion of a four-day workweek was mooted, Suga said his government would consider expanding support for people willing to enhance their careers through recurrent education without leaving their jobs, according to Kyodo News.