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Why do Japanese work such long hours?


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Why do they work such long hours? As other people have pointed out, it's their culture. The more interesting question is: is it hurting or helping Japan?

I've been here more than 5 years, and I can honestly say I have gone from absolutely loving Japan, to nearly hating it at times. The biggest reason is the horrible Japanese work ethic and business culture. If you work in Japan at a normal company you will begin to see the darker side of the country. In my opinion most of Japan's social problems (high suicide rate, depression, low birth rates, high rate of stomach cancer and poor health brought on by stress, absurdly high rate of singles, low salaries, exploding number of single mothers, men and women going their separate ways, broken nenkin system etc.) are caused mostly by Japan's business culture. A Japanese company takes most of your time, most of your energy, and gives you very little in return in terms of appreciation, salary and contentment; the salaries are not even enough to raise a family on (hence the low marriage/birth rates).

This may sound strange but Japanese people have a warped view of efficiency when it comes to time and labor. In an industry like mine (3DCG) you can expect more than half the staff to do "meaningless overtime", which means they are at their desks well into the night, but aren't actually doing much work (and any work they are doing is full of errors because they are exhausted). What they are doing is trying to create a good image to the company by showing what dedicated employees they are.. it's basically just posturing. They are also trying to offset their low salaries, because the laws in Japan are such that overtime [past a seemingly arbitrary amount] has to be paid. So since a company can really only afford to pay its employees what it can afford to pay, and half the staff is working and getting paid for overtime, everyone's salaries are therefore lower than they could be otherwise.

In addition to the overtime, you can also expect long, pointless, fruitless meetings; the sheer length and frequency of these meetings mean you literally don't have time to do the work you need to do. It seems like the reason for these long meetings is the fault of their indirect communication style; so getting things discussed, decided and accomplished takes many times longer than a western company where split-second decisions and changing of plans are normal and accepted.

Another reason so much time is required at the office (depending on the industry of course) is that there is a problem with Japanese companies using software and tools incorrectly... I call this the kanchigai tatsumaki or tornado of misinformation. The problem is that if you work in a technology industry that is constantly getting new software, tools, new information and ways of doing things etc., all of that information is going to be written in English initially, and 90% of Japanese people can't speak or read English, so they come up with their own ways of doing things and spread that misinformation around their incestuous industries.

I know it sounds like I'm slamming Japan, but to be honest I'm pulling a lot of my punches. It really IS as bad as everyone says, and anyone thinking of moving here long-term should really think about [more thoroughly than I did].

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I am a Japanese, in my opinion, i think there are many people who pretend to work and procrastinate their work. This seems like their fault but they having pressures like "why don't you stay late in work place to work more" from company or their colleagues is fact too. And, one of Japanese features is following others. Japanese tends to feel like "I need to stay late here because my colleagues stay late too." So, there people who stay late even though they do not have duties to do then. I am still 20 years old and a student. I have never worked places like Japan style as a employee. So, this is just my guess.

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I don't. I am a Japanese. That kind of theme seems very stereotype. But, we do so when the task seems finish very shortly. We are not stupid. We totally understand the individual basic human rights.

We are trying to understand the concept of the individual freedom and right of the western countries. So, we really hope they try to understand the philosophy of Japanese as well. I am not going to say which is correct. But, the present value of Japan in the world is built by this concept. That is only truth.

We believe the working is inseparable from our daily life. And we believe that continual creative spirit makes better world. That is why we don't regard job as the negative thing.

...Of course, too much working is not good...

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Ok, I do have to admit that I'm American but I'm also an American Reserve Soldier that lives their daily live as a typical American citizen day by day but living the American Soldier life when called upon. As a civilian, I work 40 hours a week and my productivity is measured by studies or metrics used by my employer. As a Soldier called to serve my nation, my productivity is measured by the lasting effects I have on the region I was assigned. That region is left entirely to myself of my superiors and the outcome is what we are evaulated on.

As a civilan, working anything over 40 hours is frown upon as it may cost the company for overtime payment. As as a Soldier, ther is no such thing as "overtime" payments. You work at the pleasury of the United States Army and you are "released" when your Commanding Officer deems your duties for the day complete. As a Soldier, I find it easier to lose myself in my work as I don't have to worry about my home life. I know that the US Army has instituted organizations to assist my family back home in coping with the hardship that comes from having a family member deployed for an extended amount of time. As such, I don't have to worry myself with such concerns. I can focus myself with my duties and the well being of my subbordinates....and that last part is the focal point of my job.

Let me make this clear, "I succeed when my team succeeds." People need time to decompress. They need time to refelct on what they've done and to decide if that's the best course of action.......and you have to allow them to reach that conculsion for themselves.

That may be a foreign concept for other Americans but as an American Soldier...that is absolutely core to my beliefs.

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I think if you want to know why Japanese work hard and long, you can think why Western countries don't have to work hard. Why can Western countries still keep good economy nevertheless less work? Because of efficient work?? What is major industry in Western major countries? Car industry? Why are there so many wars in the world? What is that for? Even though USA president says to prohibit the possession of guns, he cannot still do it. Why? What is difference between Western major countries and Japan?

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It should be many factors regarding Japanese economic depression. But nowadays people say the trigger was caused by Plaza Accord. In 1985, it was Plaza Accord which is exchange rate agreement between G5 (USA, UK, France, Germany, Japan). Before Plaza Accord, 1 US$ was 235 yen. But one year later after Plaza Accord, 1 US$ became 150 yen. And then Japanese economy went to deep economic depression. Why? Because didn't Japanese work efficiently? What was the purpose of Plaza Accord? Who leaded the Accord and gained the benefit? globaljourney(kenkou123)

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What do Japanese work hard and long time for? Why did Japanese economy suddenly go down 20 years ago? What was root cause of current Japanese economic depression? Because did Japanese start to work inefficiently?

Great questions. One thing is evident: The most difficult thing to manage is success. Twenty-five years ago and more, Japan did not manage its success very well.

The ancient Greeks had a saying: "Those whom the gods wish to utterly destroy, they first send twenty years of unbroken success." The truth behind this should humble us all.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I have been working at European company in Europe now. I have worked in Germany, Sweden and many countries in the world. Of course I have worked at typical Japanese companies as well. People in Europe usually talk about efficiency to compare. I agree efficiency is a part of factor why Japanese works long time. However from my experience, Japanese efficiency is not so bad in total. I think the efficiency perspective is just different between Europe and Japan. Every country has good side and bad side. At least quite many European companies integrate Toyota Kanban system to improve efficiency. If I only think about efficiency, I cannot explain why Japanese need to work a lot and long time, but Japanese economy is still not good. Of course efficiency and culture are parts of the factors.

However I feel another main factor exists behind, from my work experience in both Europe and Japan. I think it is related with Japanese position in the world and foreign diplomacy. What do Japanese work hard and long time for? Why did Japanese economy suddenly go down 20 years ago? What was root cause of current Japanese economic depression? Because did Japanese start to work inefficiently?

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There seems to be a side discussion appearing occasionally about why the Japanese don't just leave at 6 regardless or why they don't fight for the freedom to do so.

Reason being group harmony. They won't go before others, especially the boss, because that disrupts group dynamics- quite the sin. Harmony is the basis for most cultural practices here. Ingrained in them from a young age, it's not surprising no one objects to things. It's not "let's agree to disagree", it's "let's agree to agree so that there is no disagreeing".

0 ( +0 / -0 )

to stay away from the wife? ahhahha!

I was told be a few old men there that it stemmed from after the war. Competition and a fast rebuilding was the only way to show patriotism...toward a company. but im sure there are other reasons such as hanging out with friends back in the day... but presently, it has now changed to hanging out with friends at work...working.

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I guess it is a cultural thing, coupled with a waste of time in lunch breaks, coffee breaks, smoke breaks, etc.

But it is perceived that if you go early you are not pulling your weight into work, they like to see themselves as hard workers, even if it is simple work. In my country it happens also, the bosses tend to think you are inefficient if you leave at the time of the clock, especially if the nature of your work doesn't pay overtime (management, supervisors, etc.)

When I arrived at my company I just came back from the US from my studies, so as natural, by the time it was 6:30 pm I was ready to go, because no matter how many smoke breaks or coffee breaks I had, the work had to be done on time, my boss, before I arrived, stayed until 8:00 or 9:00 pm. She told me that It didn't look good that I leave so early, but the I told her that if you had some work unfinished by the time of the end of the workday, it was inefficient, she conceded me the point, since I did finish the stuff by the end of the day, so I teach her some technological tricks to get the work done in a faster way, In that sense, she still stayed later but instead of leaving at 8:00 - 9:00 pm, she leaved 7:00 or 7:30. Of course all that changed when she had a baby, (which she was able to conceived when her heavy workload was lifted a little)

Now, I'm still able to work long hours, but, in a mining company where the main system is work through shifts, you have to work in your allotted time, my regime is work 4 days a week and have to rest 3 days, and in that week I work 45 hours (the legal in my country), but that hours contains lunch hours (which is at the minesite and it takes like 30 mins) It's a long day, buy those 3 days that I do not have to work are a blessing for me....

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They have yet to learn how to "work smart."

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If the Japanese are traditionally so inefficient and feckless, how is it they managed to dominate the world markets for bikes, cars, ships and electronics for decades? I'm sure a lot of my fellow Brits who ended up unemployed after losing the battle for global success in those industries would love to know....

Because the USA let then flow the Country with the cheap stuff, but now that the USA and other Country staring the shake the fleets, look where japan have been in the last 15, 20 years.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This question should be why do Japanese workers stay at work such long hours.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The references to OECD stats are interesting but I wouldn't trust too much - let me explain:

Data for total employment are Secretariat estimates based on data on monthly hours worked by regular workers in the non-farm private sector taken from the Monthly Labour Survey of Establishments then extended to agricultural and government sectors, non-regular workers and the self-employed by means of actual hours worked from the Labour Force Survey.

That is an extract from the website quoted by Upgrayedd, All things being fair and equal, the Labour Force Survey would seem to a good source of info and wholly relevant, except that it is a government body, and firms are not allowed to employ people for more than a certain amount of hours per week, and hence the "official" figures are somewhat lower that what really happens. That said, I agree with many that here many people seem to be in the office a very long time without too much actually getting done. Also, there are some incredibly work ethic focused people, especially in the service industry, who really do give 200%. On balance, I think it all averages out. Finally, a lot of workers in Japan are part time, hence the stats get watered down as under certain circumstances, they do get qualified as "regular" workers.

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First is ganbaru, the act of "hanging in there", a respectable social traits every mature Japanese are expected to have.

Second, tatemae, the act to show sociall acceptable opinions or behaviors, almost always the opposite of honne. The "effort" to display tatemae is the very meaning of ganbaru. Those who fail to do so are usually shined away from society, as they don't ganbaru like the rest of the society, and perceived as immature, selfish brats.

Third, the Japanese would call it "kanpeki shugi". I see it as fear of failure. The shame that comes with failure makes people fear of it.

Put these together, the shame of failure makes people don't want to give out opinions or step forward to solve problems, rather just "show" that you ganbaru in all things, and ganbaru in your ganbaru as every Japanese are expected to.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I think the economy and the fear of losing one's job has a lot to do with it.

Japan also has a long history of being a stationary culture. One's life is defined by their occupation, which comes before family, hobbies, or other personal/private goals or endeavors. People don't change careers or move around all that much, therefore sacrificing your "other time" for work is not really seen as a big problem.

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Urqinchina: you are 100% right and japanese blue collars deserve big thumbs up. But unfortunately blue collars in many other countries are performing pretty the same for much less money. The white collars must move their ass with innovation and efficiency to aim for the same goal. Good, new and ... fast!

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oh, meant, they don't. work that is.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )


-3 ( +0 / -3 )

I think that most of these comments refer to salarymen in offices. Workers in factories and other manual jobs that are paid hourly tend to work quite hard.esp school teachers.

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My company is really trying hard to reduce overtime. This is not just blabla, there are no overtime days and incentives (!) for the ones who comply with this policy. But still, my co-salarymen stay and stay and stay! And when they are pushed off the office - literally - manu-militari, the next day they are just zombies full of sake and beer! They are just not able to go home nor welcome home by their wives (I have got tenth of japanese wives's testimonies not expecting their men to be home before they are in bed). Very cornelian salarymen's life!

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Japanese people do not work long hours. Compared to the rest of the developed world, Japanese people actually work less than average.

"Average annual hours actually worked per worker" from the OECD statistical office. http://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DatasetCode=ANHRS

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

In my experience teaching English at large companies in Tokyo, the "salarymen" are in the office for long hours, but that doesn't add up to their working long hours. From what I saw, if they put their noses to the grindstone, they could get the work done in two thirds of the time and knock off at five o'clock.

I saw people spend a lot of time dithering about, drinking tea and chatting.

I didn't see a hive of industry.

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Glad I work for a company that actually uses metrics to measure work done, etc. I come in on time and leave on time and do double the work of the next closest co-worker. Not much they can say to me at that point.

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Does that include saabisu zanngyo?


But not drinking time.

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In Japan appearance is everything, results don't matter that much. Look at Hirai the CEO of Sony, he's always well dressed but his company makes crap. Steve Jobs was always wearing jeans but people didn't matter cause he was producing results

Unintentional irony here?

I guess it will blow your mind to find out that Steve Jobs inspiration to wear the jeans and turtleneck uniform came from Japan and specifically from Sony...

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Japanese people work less hours than the OECD average. Most notably is that Japanese people work less hours than Americans and only 27 hours more than Canadians.

Does that include saabisu zanngyo?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Locking all Japanese meeting rooms and throwing the keys into the Tokyo Bay would be the most effective way to revitalize J-Inc. Muuuuuch more efficient than printing yen 24/7/365!

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"Cause going home is worse than staying at work?"

This is foreboding...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Having worked at a small not international small Japanese company I can say staying long hours at the office does not mean working. In Japan appearance is everything, results don't matter that much. Look at Hirai the CEO of Sony, he's always well dressed but his company makes crap. Steve Jobs was always wearing jeans but people didn't matter cause he was producing results. Back to work hours, I was once told by a colleague to learn how to pretend I was working because the bosses were watching me. After 6, the bosses would often do a tour of the company to see who was still there and who was gone. In North America the people gone after 6 are the ones who get things done, in Japan the people gone are the lazy ones. Japanese spend so much time in meeting and discussing things that nothing gets done thus overtime is needed. Also, because of the lifetime employment system the job market is dysfunctional and people end up doing jobs they have no skills for thus the need to work long hours. I have seen many cases where a person with the right skills could do in 3 hours what a Japanese worker does in 3 days. Another reason is that many Japanese businesses still try to compete with Korean/Taiwanese/Chinese competitors whose workers earn 1/2 or less than in Japan. No matter who much overtime they make, the guys making 1/3 their salaries will always get more work done for the same amount of money.

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When I first lived in Japan I was having a conversation with an older Japanese guy who had lived and worked in Sydney, Australia. He told me that Japanese people will always tell you how hard their working life is, and how hard they work etc etc. But he said this was BS. He felt that the Australians he worked with worked much harder to get the job done by 5pm so they could go home. He said Japanese workers just dawdle and waste time and spend much longer in the office. I also often witnessed people sleeping at their desks when I worked in Japan - a sackable offence where I come from.

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logic, long office hours = working hard hence, japanese are hardest working in the world

sounds about right, no?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I work for a well known Japanese company, but thankfully not in an office. I work far fewer hours than any salaryman, and for much better pay.

From my observations of my company's office slaves I would say that most of the comments posted on here are accurate. White collar Japanese workers are quite inefficient whereas their blue collar counterparts are the opposite. If you could combine Japanese manual labor with a western style office you would have a killer company.

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It's actually a myth that the Japanese work long total hours than Americans. If you count up all the hours in one year, Americans are on par. What's even more surprising is that Greeks total hours worked in one year surpasses both the Japanese and Americans. Greeks are stereotyped as lazy.

ares7: No, just no. Firstly, Greece's informal economy is likely larger than its formal economy so I'm incredibly curious as to who found out the hours worked in a year for the typical Greek. Plus you're looking at a country with over 28% unemployment including over 50% youth unemployment. Greeks working the longest in the world? No, no, no, that is ridiculous beyond comprehension.

With the US, again you've got an informal economy a third the size of its formal, one of the most inaccurate unemployment rates on Earth, and an astonishingly lax labor law; how is it even possible to get the figures you mentioned?

The only accurate measures are calculating a number of different items including some of the above using raw data from the government, unless of course it's via survey, which then means almost 100% inaccurate.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

This is a poor stereotype in comparison to the bubble era. Not as many people work as long as they once did, because companies can no longer afford the overtime pay.

This is becoming more and more of a myth than reality for many people. The rest is an image!

1 ( +4 / -3 )

hardly working not working hard

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Most Japanese do not work hard, they just spend countless hours wasting time on pointless paperwork and irrelevant procedures.

Well that can be considered working hard, it's just not working smart. We Americans are lazy but efficient because our laziness drives us to find ways to handle repetitive tasks easily and skim over unimportant tasks.

About wanting to work overtime though, I think it depends on the company. At my previous kaisha you got paid for each hour of overtime, so many people were staying an extra 3-4 hours almost every day. It got to a point where they had to make Wednesday a "go home on time" day. I know that other companies have done that as well.

At my current kaisha however, overtime is included in the salary already so people don't stay unless they really need to. The difference is pretty big.

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My ex is in a state of permanent shock every time I come to Japan for a long holiday... she takes a week only, and even then she has the fear that if she isn't at work and they don't miss her they'll just pay her off. So there is the fear aspect... and I think that may be at the root of some of these practices: work all the hours of the day, show that we need you.

She is constantly tired, suffers from stress-induced migraines and is just generally existing rather than living. I work 37.5 hours a week... she works at least another 10 hours on top of that. In some ways I'm glad I can't get a work visa.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

It's actually a myth that the Japanese work long total hours than Americans. If you count up all the hours in one year, Americans are on par. What's even more surprising is that Greeks total hours worked in one year surpasses both the Japanese and Americans. Greeks are stereotyped as lazy.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

No one has mentioned one of the main causes : One young worker will be working on a report when he is interrupted by a senior coworker and asked to work on something else. The younger one will stop working on the report and finish the task assigned by the senior. He finishes it, goes back to his report, but just when he's getting into a groove he is again interrupted, this time by his manager. His manager asks him to go visit a client. Of course the young worker will say yes, leave the office, and return a couple of hours later. He sits down at his desk and says "where was I? Oh yeah, I was working on the report ..." only to find that there have been files placed on his desk that he must look at. You get the picture. Young workers will do as they are told and this is leading to poor time management. Workers must be taught at a young age to prioritize their tasks and to sometimes say no to their bosses.

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Bgaudry!!! You just said all that what I wanted to say...to add though..they are endlessly looking for faults and reasons to make transactions take longer and complicating. Another one is that their homes aren't exactly designed for chilling out or relaxing. The man know that their wives prefer them not to be home early to be able to eat dinner together with them and cuddle in bed after cleaning up together in the kitchen, putting the kids to bed together ad perhaps reading them a book before bedtime. So they make reasons preferring to stay in the office...they don't have any other way of fun, they simple don't know how to enjoy unless they've had a few beers. This is not all.....the list continues....

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@lucabrasi beacause back 20+ years ago the exchange rate was 200+yen to the dollar. Japanese goods were very cheap in foreign countries and they had little competition. then the Yen went through the roof and along came China/Korea to make those same goods but at much cheaper prices. the rest is history

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hoserfella, yeah, but it's still their choice, because they decide (themselves) not to go home until the boss does. It is their own fear of repercussions and their own decision to care so much what their useless coworkers think. I totally understand what you're saying, but being a gutless drone does not make this someone else's fault. I go home at 6pm and I am a manager in a Japanese company. They keep giving me pay rises...

0 ( +2 / -2 )

In my company, there are fewer staff than there used to be due to cost-cutting measures, so everyone has to do more. The Japanese staff are working hard in my company; they're not wasting time.

I've also noticed that most of my foreign friends in various companies also work long hours. Whenever we arrange to meet up for drinks or dinner, it invariably is 8 p.m. and not 6 p.m., which I wish it could be.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

saxon salut - couldn't disagree with you more. They might technically be able to go home at 5, but everyone knows you don't go home till the boss does. If the boss isn't in the equation, it's stress about what co-workers might say.

If they want to go home at a decent hour and not worry about repurcussions, they'll have to fight for their rights (which they never have)

0 ( +6 / -6 )

Obviously it's a number of reasons, and I haven't read all the comments so if I'm repeating forgive me but:

They are taught from at least junior highschool that from morning to night, you obey the machine.

It is all they know, and to change it would bring about nothing but confusion and fear. From a young age, as I stated with number 1, they are told what to do in a precise schedule. They have a choice as to what club to join, but once they join it they have no more choices. The parents choose their evening jukus, and that's their day -- even in summer. It is systematic from that time until retirement, where divorce is booming here because people don't know what to do afterwards. The only break seems to be the four year joke called university.

It is an escape. Trouble with the family? Don't want to and/or can't communicate? escape to the familiar, and stay away as long as possible to avoid the aforementioned.

'Sabisu zangyou'. There are of course many cases where it is simply required, and people comply without question out of fear. Despite laws being made against it, I've never heard of any lawsuits filed outside of a person dying from overwork.

They're not doing the work. If you give a person a lot of time off to spend with love ones, or simply doing what they love, and a short work period, it has been proven they will work FAR more effectively in that given period than a person forced to work long periods of time so that they have no time to do what they want freely. What's the motivation?

Wasted time. Smoke breaks, lunch breaks, and the mandatory trip to the bar when the 'work is done'. This kind of overlaps with my #5.

And yet despite all this there is constant talk of 'working harder to save Japan' or re-implementing Saturday classes for public schools because of poor performance. Be it child at school or person at job, they are not performing poorly because they are not putting in enough hours, they are performing poorly because they are putting in too much and have no reason or motivation to do well.

3 ( +7 / -4 )


Cheers for the explanation!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

wipeoutMay. 02, 2013 - 11:16AM JST

They do not WORK long hours. They are PRESENT in their office or workplace for a long hours.

In my office, and other Japanese workplaces I've been in, they do work hard. Not necessarily long hours though:

off-topic, please re-read question is : Why do Japanese work such long hours?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I think a more important question, for Japanese people, is: Why do gaijin leave work right around 6PM? And one of the answers is: because we actually have a life outside of work!

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lucabrasi, it's a good question and there are various answers. I personally think the Japanese are far more efficient when they have to be internationally competitive, and the factories they set up overseas are advanced and efficient. They hire local workers and Japanese management adopt western working practices and insist on efficiency. This was certainly the case in a major Japanese corporation that I worked for in the UK. Protectionism also plays a role, as does nihonjinron as does dumping. But domestically (85% of Japan's economy is domestic) there is usually very little efficiency, and a very poor work-life balance, largely because people they must be perceived as hardworking, rather than perceived as accurate and efficient. That's my take anyway. Plus they didn't have the same problems with the unions that the UK had!

6 ( +6 / -0 )

@ronaldk Spot on. When the company I worked for clamped down on 'excessive' ( ? ) overtime the biggest issue was loss of pay. As I work in the manufacturing sector, salaries are not generally great and overtime was seen as a way to bump up wages to the level needed. Managers had done the same thing and had sympathy for it. There are other factors at work, but many ignore the simple reality that they need the cash.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Depends on the industry; IT and software development is usually hard-working because the average workloads are gigantic, pharmaceuticals are fairly relaxed, automobile industry is semi-relaxed, financials are incredibly inefficient, medical I think it depends on the sort of area they are practicing in, law is fairly standard with other countries.

That's from my experiences working with companies in these industries anyway, but I think this article is a bit too generalized for any credible opinion from any one person.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Unfortunately I work in a large traditional Japanese company and know the reality. The non-managers stay late to get extra money from overtime. They have basically told me so. The managers stay late because if they leave before their boss then they will not get promoted. I am the token gaijin, so when I leave on the bell they all feel smug and self-satisfied about the hard-working Japanese, lazy gaijin stereotype that I happily fulfill.

16 ( +18 / -2 )

To avoid going home-

Married Men- avoid the nagging wife Unmarried Men- avoid the nagging parents about when they are going to get married or find a real job

Married Women- have to work then go home and make dinner for the husband, children and in-laws Unmarried Women- avoid nagging parents about when they are going to get married

3 ( +4 / -1 )

If the Japanese are traditionally so inefficient and feckless, how is it they managed to dominate the world markets for bikes, cars, ships and electronics for decades? I'm sure a lot of my fellow Brits who ended up unemployed after losing the battle for global success in those industries would love to know....

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Totally agree with OkinawaMike.

I was told in my Personnel evaluation that I ''get things done too quickly'', also to ''make myself look a little more stressed and busy'', and the strangest of them all, ''try not to leave on time.''. Really??

It takes one of my co-workers more than 2 hours to do a ten minute job. Although he has the look of being stressed out down pat.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Cause going home is worse than staying at work?

13 ( +14 / -1 )

I think it is exactly like people are saying - "being in a office" and "working" are not same, I think.

I said before, my friend was living in a Spain for some years. Working time is begin at 8. After four hours working, they have a long lunchtime (three hours!) and they go to movie, or shopping, or meet a sweetheart, many nice thing. Such as "work-life balance", and go back to a office at three p.m. with a refresh mind. Then four hours more work, and everyone must go out at seven. If a person cannot finish a work in eight hours, a spannish boss is very angry and say "Why you are so slow worker? Please more efficiently as you can!"

Then she backed to Japan and same work amount must be for fourteen hours, everyone is so silently - even lunchtime is silently in a desk. Not more work, only more slowly work.

Why Japanese people don't want to enjoy a life? So many ladies in my office are live with Mummy even as a forties. No baby, no their family. I want say, "Why you can't have thinking by yourself? Why you can't work as faster as possible? Your life is only one time, do you know?"

But of course they never listen, and so gloomy life. It is not a efficient way or hard worker, only habit. Should be change, I think.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

hoserfella, every Japanese I have ever met is working long hours because they choose to. If they wanted to get up and go home, they could, but they all choose to spend all day sitting around staring blankly at Excel sheets and attending pointless meetings. They then claim they "cannot leave" becausue they are "too busy", but in reality they have achieved absolutely sweet FA in their normal working shift. They don't get paid overtime where I work, and the company is absolutely not forcing anyone to stay at their desks after 6:00pm.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

There are two main reasons for this:

They are staggeringly inefficient. They want to be perceived as being hard working.

Most Japanese do not work hard, they just spend countless hours wasting time on pointless paperwork and irrelevant procedures.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

I think it is cultural. That is how the society has run for ages. Just my opinion but the Tokugawa period didnt finish all that long ago, around 1860? That is only 150 years ago, which means peoples great-grandparents were around then. So the influence of those great-grandparents, what they thought was normal in daily life, would have been passed onto our grandparents who passed that onto our parents (depends on your age of course). So the values those older generations held dear were passed down to the younger. Some stuff might get watered down a bit on the way, but basically they`re the same.

Unlike fashion or industry, societies don`t change their daily rules and mores at the flip of a switch, it takes quite a long time to change some things. So the bosses still hold the upper hand, but I expect that to change more as time goes by. I think we need a few more generations to pass by in Japan until the average worker gets a fairer deal from their bosses.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

Michelangelo, Nikola Telsa, and Napoleon, all napped during the day, and also got a lot done. I went to a US university where the mortals would frequently stay up all night to study. So when I entered a Japanese engineering company, and saw chain smoking veteran Takahashi staying up all night, washing his socks and leaving them to dry on his desk, I felt I could identify. Hell, I wouldn't do it now. I'd rather bicycle 1000 kilometers around Kyuushu non stop any day of the week. But there is more than one way to approach life; variety makes the world a colorful place.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

In my experience, just because Japanese are "at the office" for long hours does not mean that they actually are

1: Doing more work 2: Being more productive 3: Are actually even awake

It is a very poor work culture habit that started decades ago when Japanese workers were actually required to work longer hours to get on top of the workload.

Now, unfortunately, it is just a poor business habit that actually has a negative effect on both Japanese businesses and Japanese workers.

The strange thing is the majority of workers actually believe it is normal and do not have the strength to question or change anything. So they sit their at their at their desks barely awake.

Long work hours just for the sake of it only does stifle innovation and productivity.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I worked in a Kaisha 2 years and the main reasons have stated in the comments, but one thing I witnessed was that they sleep at their desk to show exhaustion from work. So basically 2 hours asleep means they have to stay at leas 2 hours after standard working hours. And also it is considered bad to leave before your boss and as most of time the boss has a boring life waiting for him back home he just seats there surfing the web or reading news paper while the other workers are dying to get home or out.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

They don't. They spend a lot of time in the office and go home late, but they are not necessarily working. It seems to be bad form to go home before the slowest, most inefficient worker has finished, so they spend time hangin around and waiting for that person to finish.

In many countries those who cannot complete there work by the end of the working day and get home in time for dinner, those who need to work late to finish, are the bad workers. In Japan those who complete there work by the end of the working day and get home in time for dinner, those who do not stay late waiting for everyone else to finish, are considered the bad workers.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

They do not WORK long hours. They are PRESENT in their office or workplace for a long hours.

26 ( +28 / -2 )

I haven't met one Japanese who worked long hours because they wanted to. They are the first to complain in the morning about how tired they are, no life, etc.

But I don't have a lot of sympathy because they have never demanded better working conditions like our forefathers in the west. That doesn't come without a fight and sacrifice.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

Cultural. This is how they learn from an early age at school and from their parents. Then it is social pressure from colleagues and not wanting to let the side down. agree everything in Japan seems to take way longer and require a lot more discussion and meetings than in other countries I have worked. You could say because they care about their work, and their is some truth to that, but mostly cultural.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

They have NO hobbies. They often marry for reasons other than love, meaning they don't want to spend time with their "partner". For the most part, they don't know that there are other ways to live life. Slavery has yet to be abolished in Japan. From childhood their lives revolve around institutions- club, school, juku. They have no idea what to do with their free time. In my childhood, my friends and I had hours/days/weeks of free time in which we learned to amuse ourselves. Lots of kids here are on "salaryman" schedules from a young age. 6am to 9pm - asaren, school, club, juku.
16 ( +19 / -3 )

My impression seems to be that while people are "working" long hours, a survey of how much time is being spent on smoke breaks, toilet breaks, sneaky phone calls to the mistress, long lunch breaks etc would probably find that the average office worker only does about 5 - 6 hours of work.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

They need to work late trying to figure out what to do with all that time.

Seriously, at the bottom line it is fear. Mainly, the fear that, if things aren't successful, it won't be because they weren't putting in the hours.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Good question. Consider this from Europe (esp. France & Germany)

Fixed employment comes with four to six weeks of holiday as standard. (wikipedia)

Can anyone imagine what Japanese workers would do with a month and a half paid holiday? Would the economy crumble?

As to the question: I believe a lot of workers stay late because it is expected of them. The company expects 24/7 loyalty and fealty, wives expect husbands to come home late, co-workers expect everyone to be the last to leave. No one likes it but it is 'expected' therefore it is done; it is the social norm.

Are Japanese workers the most efficient in the world? No, according to a variety of sites. The US (lazy bastards that they are) come in at number one often, France is slightly higher than Japan and Germany is slightly lower. Not so odd, the Netherlands comes in near the top end and increasing year-by-year while working hours decrease. Fewer working hours, more efficiency. Hmmm.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

They have to show their company spirit even if those extra evening hours don't amount to anything productive getting done.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Because they can't get crap done in 8 hours.

People sit and procrastinate 7 hours every day in our office, only to "put a rush" on it, the last hour.

It doesn't get done and now overtime is required.

Biggest waste of people power, the banks. 4 people to give you a piece of paper for deposit or with drawls.

23 ( +26 / -3 )

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