business

Japan's first Premium Friday shows mixed results

33 Comments

The first Premium Friday is now history.

The new event, organized with the support of the government, Keidanren (Federation of Economic Organizations) and other groups, was conceived to liberate salaried workers from their jobs after 3 p.m. on the last Friday of each month. Along with "changing the way people work," it was hoped that people would devote some of the extra time to consumption, stimulating the economy by shopping or engaging in other types of leisure pursuits.

According to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), the idea for Premium Friday -- already nicknamed "pure-fura" for short by the media -- would hopefully show results in three main areas: 1) to nurture an opportunity in which lifestyles can be changed to foment a greater sense of fulfillment and satisfaction; 2) lead to a strengthening of community functions and harmony in localities; and 3) help reduce the current deflationary spiral.

To coordinate efforts between the government and private sector, a Premium Friday Promotion Council was established. In addition to members from METI and Keidanren, the Japan Department Stores Association, Japan Franchise Chain Association, Japan Supermarket Association, Japan Association of Shopping Centers and others agreed to distribute a promotional logo mark. These would be displayed by participating businesses, which numbered 3,930 as of Feb 24, J-Cast News reports.

In preparation for the launch, the promoters encouraged a variety of campaigns. Hotels and restaurants offered discounts on accommodations or special course meals, or planned events to be held to make this particular Friday different from others. Overall, quite a large number of businesses went along with the plan.

But bulletin board posts on the internet showed plenty of negative remarks:

"Even though I'm busy at the end of the month, do I stop work at 3:00? If they tell me to take the work home with me, it's no different from doing overtime."

"Premium Friday?? How can I leave? The end of the month is my busiest time. Whoever thought this up must have been somebody without a job."

"I'll have to come into work on Saturday instead."

"The workers on the later shift have it made, since they won't have to come to work at all."

Several posters showed a modicum of sympathy for the workers who will be saddled with additional tasks, to service the lucky ones who get off from three.

"What about the employees at hotels and department stores? You can bet they'll be at work."

"There's a labor shortage at present. My company only consists of five workers and the president. You go ahead; I'm staying."

In other words, for employees at small- and medium-size enterprises, or businesses barely managing to hang on, Premium Friday is essentially meaningless.

Other posts were equally skeptical.

"Poor people who work for hourly wages shouldn't whine."

"I suppose the ones who can take advantage of this are government workers."

"I passed through Kasumigaseki a while ago, and lights were turned on in the government ministries."

"All I can do is go home early; I'm broke."

"The notion to reduce working hours in order to increase consumption is absurd."

Still others voiced the opinion that "premium" will merely serve the affluent.

At the Sangenjaya commercial area in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward, the operator of an izakaya pub told J-Cast News, "Compared with a regular Friday, more customers came in earlier than usual. But I don't know if it was connected to Premium Friday or not. Anyway, all our tables were booked in advance."

According to a survey of workers at major companies appearing on Feb 21 in the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, 37% of the respondents replied that they planned to leave the office early on the 24th. In contrast, 45% said they had no special plans.

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33 Comments
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A government cannot 'suggestively legislate' an elective behavior. When the Japanese work culture catches up with the Western economies - which will take at least another generation - then people at Japan Inc. and Japan Gov't will take every Friday afternoon off, work only 37.5 hours a week, and get a life. Until that, those who allow themselves to be abused by an outmoded work 'ethic', which is nothing but slavery by another name, will continue to jump off buildings or in front of trains.

This is a very serious problem with Japanese society, and it will take a true tsunami of change, led by young people who want a balanced life, instead of just work, work, work, before it happens.

I base that opinion on the fact that I'm a 63-year old Canadian, former ad agency owner with an early-life career in a union, and I spend 6-8 weeks every year traveling around Japan. What I see is nothing but a work gulag with perks. Sorry if that's a bit harsh, but I come from a civilized country that doesn't abuse its middle class. Sure, Canada's not perfect, but it works, and not on the backs of its citizens.

All that said, 'Nihon, mata kimas'.

21 ( +24 / -3 )

1) to nurture an opportunity in which lifestyles can be changed to foment a greater sense of fulfillment and satisfaction; 2) lead to a strengthening of community functions and harmony in localities; and 3) help reduce the current deflationary spiral.

1 and 2 are just excuses to get to the real goal No 3.

Don't be surprised to see other gimmicks come out to get people to spend more money. Keidanren should get their heads out of their butts. The more people spend the more people will need the products that their companies and businesses supply.

Give workers a decent wage, don't over work them, give them quality time off, and people will spend their cash. Japanese consumers have literally a few hundred BILLION in savings. Give them the time to use it, and they will. IF they know that the money will be replaced down the road.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

"Several posters showed a modicum of sympathy for the workers who will be saddled with additional tasks, to service the lucky ones who get off from three."

Same reason most workers will not take a proper vacation, no matter how many days of leave they've accumulated. If companies were serious about this they'd work it out in about 5 minutes. This Friday staff A will leave early & B will cover their work. Next Friday, vice versa. Just like John will cover my work while I go to Vegas for a week and then this summer when John takes a week off himself....

Workers here suffer from collective Stockholm syndrome. Companies don't promote any such common sense measures b/c they don't actually give a hoot about work-life balance or their workers, no more than daimyo cared how their peasants were doing. The accounting buchou at my former company wouldn't allow his staff to take a day or two off to make Obon or NY's a full week's holiday. That was his policy and that it contradicted company rules and labor laws was irrelevant. No one would dare question it.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

I think "mixed" is probably a charitable assessment of the outcome. It seems a desperate measure to resist the overwhelmingly obvious conclusion that it is companies that are parasitically hollowing out Japan.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

First of all anytime the Keidanren is involved something is either fixed, corrupt or silly. Secondly, if the govt made all companies allow employees to use their paid holidays then we would not need these ridiculous fake campaigns.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

hoped that people would devote some of the extra time to consumption, stimulating the economy by shopping or engaging in other types of leisure pursuits.

... a good idea in line with many European countries, but the government here as totally missed the point - narrow minded pursuite of pointless consumption rather than focusing on improving quality of life - more social and family time, reduced stress etc etc

6 ( +7 / -1 )

“changing the way people work,”

Well, this has to begin by changing the way management manages... As Dango bong said, simply be able to take and enjoy paid leave - as it was intended - would be a step in the right direction to meet all 3 stated goals.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

A lot of the complaints boil down to: "Someone is getting something that I'm not getting, so let's have everyone not get anything at all."

I'm all for "pure fura." Less work=good! Although, I didn't go out and spend anything.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

If companies were serious about this they'd work it out in about 5 minutes.

There are some, very few it seems, companies and businesses that are concerned and take care of their staff. I work in a place where we HAVE to take a 4 day, "refresh" break, and it wraps around a weekend or holiday and we get a week to 10 days off. 3 days in summer, mandatory, use vacation time, never a problem.

Japanese businesses MUST come to the realization; If you have a good home you can do a good job, and togetherIf you have a good job, you can have a good home. Sounds better in Japanese, but the point is, that both are important and necessary to each other.

Our owner, with over 400 employees, truly believes this and makes it so!

2 ( +5 / -3 )

1) to nurture an opportunity in which lifestyles can be changed to foment a greater sense of fulfillment and satisfaction; 2) lead to a strengthening of community functions and harmony in localities;

I can't believe Japanese people doesn't get furious listening to all that BS. But they just watch it on the news and nod in agreement.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

The problem is, young workers have seen and know how other countries operate, but they are forced by the older managers to continue the rotten and corrupt system that has existed for years. My kids both work for major corporations here in Japan, but they also talk to their cousins back in NA and they see how different it is, how they can take long holidays and travel when then want to, not when the company decides. How they can leave at a decent hour and go to boxing classes or take university classes in the evening. But if your boss won't let you leave, what is a young person to do. And that is the problem, it won't change until these old farts are forced to change!

5 ( +7 / -2 )

“All I can do is go home early; I’m broke.”

Nuff said.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Perhaps either or both of you gents could suggest a more appropriate headline?

I'm not a headline writer. But it's not my job as a reader to create the headlines, it's their job as the news creator to make sure the headline matches the article.

I suppose something along the lines of 'Japanese Premium Friday evokes mixed opinions amongst the Japanese.'

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Slave mentality is indeed a prison for the mind. Listen to the complaints on the ground ( about an incentive to get a few hours off! ) to show just how deep it runs. Institutionalised. Personally thought it was a great idea. Take it another step and give them the whole day off! The world wont crumble, nor come to an end ;P Free the people!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Too little too late. Ppl have been brainwashed for their entire lives by govt, companies, media etc many simply don't know how to use a couple of hours of free time: what should I do, is it ok to leave work, what will others think, do I deserve it etc? Am absolutely certain some (many?) J employees would actually feel guilty and may even 'compensate' when they come back to work the following week. Because that's what they have been taught.

Overwork, workplace culture, work-life balance etc is a deep, complex, cultural issue and a couple of hours off once a month isn't going to fix anything. Not when reforms only talk about 'capping' overtime at 60-80h per month.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I told you it wouldn't work. I asked some of my Japanese friends and all of them said it was a ridiculous thing and NONE of their companies participated in this ridiculous event.

I'd expect "results" to show which industries showed improved sales ytd/mtd on Friday and that X% of companies encouraged PF. Both were (anecdotally) shown in the last paragragh —— one izakaya, one survey from before Friday.

Yes!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

People needs less taxes, less burden, cheaper prices...this is not a question of having 1 free afternoon every month, like the time is the problem when you can order anything from internet in a couple of minutes...but if the govt thinks it will solve the economy then let it be.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

No salaried workers in this household so won't change our lives at all, except maybe picking up some bargains at ItoYokado, which put out a special flier, ha ha. I'm not sure if any of the local companies here let their workers go home early, seems very much a metropolitan scheme. I'm sure it's been a success though for whatever agencies got the jobs of designing and producing all those yellow logo posters, banners, etc.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

TrevorPeaceFeb. 27, 2017 - 06:54AM JST A government cannot 'suggestively legislate' an elective behavior

every single government does this. what do you think sin taxes are? or what about smoking or seat belt campaigns? there's even a soda tax. just because you ignore the campaigns that you agree with doesn't mean that there is a constant push by the goverment to change the behavior of its citizens.

that being said this lip service the government pays work life balance is laughable and even offensive. it's a waste of my tax dollars.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Silly campaign. although the GF did knock off earlier than normal so we had a longer evening together. didn't spend more though.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@TrevorPeace "A government cannot 'suggestively legislate' an elective behavior."

I respectfully disagree. Japanese basically take holidays at three dictated times per year, starting with Shogatsu (New Year), Golden Week and Obon. Then they may sprinkle in a few days here and there to recover from free overtime exhaustion,,,

If the government mandates Premium Friday and sticks with it, it will happen.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

TrevorPeace nailed it.

I cringe everytime I hear the word 単身赴任 (it might exists in other countries as well but not like this place. You live in your beautiful house with your lovely wife and kids. All sudden your company decides to relocate you (or you decide it by yourself, accepting a job in a city far away from home). You're crammed in a small apartment living a lonely life all by yourself while you have a family that misses you every single day. If you're not a soldier, or a sailor, why the heck you choose to live this miserable life? In Japan, you live to work for a company. Companies come and go. Is your life worth it?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Also, another reason to hate this new idea is the nickname “pure-fura”. I am so sick and tired of these abbreviations. Why can't anybody say the whole word, and they in such a hurry. If I hear another person talk about "power po", I'm going to hit them!

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Didnt know about it until I left the office at 10pm when the lights went out and my coworker mentioned it.. Was totally "Huh?". Laughed inside because neither of my companies said anything about it and it wont change a single thing.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

goldorak:

Too little too late. Ppl have been brainwashed for their entire lives by govt, companies, media etc many simply don't know how to use a couple of hours of free time: what should I do, is it ok to leave work, what will others think, do I deserve it etc? Am absolutely certain some (many?) J employees would actually feel guilty and may even 'compensate' when they come back to work the following week. Because that's what they have been taught.

I applaud the gov't for trying something. Not the perfect solution, of course, but it's better than not doing anything at all. You are right about Japanese employees behaving like a shoal. At this point they have to be pushed to take hours off. I think it will work ok in the next couple of months.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I applaud the gov't for trying something.

Sorry but this attitude is wrong. Literally offering breadcrumbs to those suffering a famine. From reporting last fall:

"According to the survey, taken between last December and January this year, about 10.8 percent of companies said they had workers putting in 80 to 100 hours of overtime a month, while another 11.9 percent said they had workers doing more than 100 hours. The paper was based on responses from 1,743 companies and 19,583 workers. It had targeted 10,000 firms and 20,000 employees."

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/10/07/national/social-issues/1-in-4-firms-say-some-workers-log-80-hours-overtime-a-month-white-paper-on-karoshi/

In the face of this ongoing abuse, the government continues to politely recommend minor changes. Anything to risk alienating Japan Inc. What they should be doing is enforcing existing labor laws. That would treat the disease plaguing every aspect of this society. Let's not applaud them for applying band-aids to metastasized cancer.

I would add that if unions showed an ounce of backbone, things would also change rather quickly. What their purpose is in Japan is beyond me. Negotiating polite expressions of gratitude for stagnant wages and shrinking bonuses?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

What Trevorpeace said. I live in Tokyo and have been asking every Japanese worker I know, what time they went home on Friday. EVERY reply was between the hours of 8 and 11pm. The time of this plan is so bad. February and March are the busiest months of the year for companies. Fiscal year end, transfers, moving home, school years ending, new school years preps, just to name a few. And don't forget about the well know 'after 72 days we all forget' saying in Japan. Now had he started it in May or June, then perhaps it would have had more meaning. Also, what ever happened to "No overtime Wednesdays"?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

“The notion to reduce working hours in order to increase consumption is absurd.”

Certainly the logic is not clear.

It was hoped that people having extra time would "stimulate the economy" by them shopping. But will people actually shop MORE as a result, is the key question for me. Re-arranging the timing of consumption is not the same as boosting it. For example it seems that some shops that ran big discount sales (like Aoyama for men's business clothing) did a great trade on Friday evening. But with their customers now stocked up on products that they were able to buy on discount, I suspect that those customers won't be needing or wanting to buy more of the same products again soon at regular prices. So having sold their products at discount, will the retailers end up better off? Colour me skeptical.

Also if it is such discount sales that is bringing demand forward, how is that going to stop the purported scourge of Japan's problems, the "deflationary spiral"? Doesn't the economics profession tell us that lower prices in future (deflation) mean customers hold off spending now, and higher prices in future (inflation), and that deflation is bad and inflation is good?

In reality, consumers prefer prices lower.

My view is that the Japanese worker needs to become more productive in order to earn higher wages, then they will be able to increase their consumption. With that higher productivity also comes more products and services to be consumed, or more capacity to purchase imported products and services. Increased productivity will thus keep inflation low as consumers like it while producing more stuff. And the stale old producers making stuff which people no longer need should go out of business and free up the human resources that are wasting for more productive and profitable ventures.

Overall, quite a large number of businesses went along with the plan.

I saw that some 3000+ companies said they were good with Premium Friday, but only about 120 companies actually let their staff go home early.

All that said, Premium Friday itself may be a bit of a waste of attention, but within the broader context of efforts to boost Japanese worker productivity (by encouraging people to get their work done so they can go home early) it may be a mild positive.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

h h h Premium Friday !! A country where company send employee for a medical checkup if one consume all sick leaves. And now they are discussing about Premium Friday ha ha ha what a joke. Japanese bosses still behave like Yakuza Gangsters.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

“Poor people who work for hourly wages shouldn’t whine”.....

These working poor wait at the swanky restaurants and serve at the 24 hour convenience stores for a pittance and always greet with a smile.

All so this person can scornfully turn their nose up, what a premium plonker

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Sorry but this attitude is wrong. Literally offering breadcrumbs to those suffering a famine. (In reply to: I applaud the gov't for trying something.)

So doing nothing is better?? Ever heard of "Better late than never?"

I am not Japanese but being part of the workforce here I took a half day off and did spend some on things which I could not have bought otherwise because I had no time for visiting that particular store. So if it takes the government to "order" the people to take some time off, why not? The first time ever, you got mixed results. Not 100% negative ones. If you stick to it, people and companies will gradually warm up to the idea. All the power to those who promote and stick to the Premium Friday.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

3) help reduce the current deflationary spiral.

This is the only thing the government really cares about, and it isn't even true: Japan is not in a deflationary spiral in any way at all. Prices (and taxes) are rising everywhere and what the people need is lower prices. Want them to consume more? Any shop owner knows how to do that: lower prices!

But the government doesn't even really want the people consuming more so much as it wants inflation to destroy the value of the debt it has amassed over the past few decades, at the expense of the diligent Japanese people who have saved all those yen. That's what Abe really wants, while using feel-good nationalism to distract the people from how he's robbing them blind and making their futures less secure.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

1) to nurture an opportunity in which lifestyles can be changed to foment a greater sense of fulfillment and satisfaction; 2) lead to a strengthening of community functions and harmony in localities; and 3) help reduce the current deflationary spiral.

Oh lord, did this come from a textbook? Does the jgov actually believe this is equivalent to rolling out a revolutionary fiscal policy or something?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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