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.© Japan Today