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Gov't employees to start work early, finish early in July, August

32 Comments

Government employees will start work early and finish early in July and August again this year under an initiative announced by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last summer to promote work flexibility.

The government introduced the initiative, known as "yukatsu," in July 2015 to implement a better balance between work and play for Japan's harried employees and to encourage them to spend time and money on private life and leisure.

Once again this year, central government officials will promote early starts and flexible finishes. Employees will be encouraged to start work between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., and finish work at around 5 p.m.

To encourage "yukatsu" even more, government offices in Tokyo's Kasumigaseki district will switch their lights off by 8 p.m.

According to statistics from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the average Japanese put in 1,735 hours' work in 2013, far more than the 1,489 of France and Germany's tally of 1,388, but fewer than the 1,788 of the United States.

However, labor experts suspect Japan's true number is higher, with employees under-reporting overtime in a culture where presenteeism prevails.

Employees are sometimes expected to spend time with their colleagues in the evening, with often-alcohol fueled bonding sessions practically compulsory.

However, government officials say the introduction of daylight saving is not currently on the table for discussion. Opponents cite reasons ranging from the simple nuisance of changing time and the risk of inviting even longer work hours to the possibility of increasing home air-conditioning demand in the evening.

In summer months, the sun rises in Tokyo at around 4:30 a.m. and sets by 7 p.m.

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32 Comments
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To encourage “yukatsu” even more, government offices in Tokyo’s Kasumigaseki district will switch their lights off by 8 p.m.

They will just switch on their cell phone lights and keep working. 8PM is still way too late. There is no need for any government worker to be in their offices that late, unless there is a crisis event to deal with.

Yokatsu, just means more time to go drink and spend money.

13 ( +15 / -2 )

Employees are sometimes expected to spend time with their colleagues in the evening, with often-alcohol fueled bonding sessions practically compulsory.

all for the sake of sake !

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Yet another bright idea from Shinzo Abe!

1 ( +5 / -4 )

And how is that working out

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Get to work earlier and go home on time. In other words, work longer for the same pay. Sounds like a good benefit for the government. Also, if you don't go home on time (wink wink nudge nudge) we'll turn the lights out at 8:00 - thereby forcing you to go home... Or out drinking. But also to let you know that the real ending time is 8:00.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

However, labor experts suspect Japan’s true number is higher, with employees under-reporting overtime in a culture where presenteeism prevails.

No doubt! This number would only represent the 'official' overtime and would not include the early starts for cleaning the office or dithering around waiting for the boss to leave.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I feel this is not working flexibility because it's just for Japan government to save a heavy energy or show their action to Japanese.

Someone doesn't want to get up early and they might want to use morning time as studying, learning, running, spending with their family.

We do need more flexible time and first of all, we should minimize our working overtime without any hesitation to others.

If you don't have any urgent work after regular working time around 5 or 6, you should go home early or go for drink with co-worker, it's usual and not strange but in Japan it's still awkward.....

Working overtime is not good for us everyone except for working lovers especially overtime, Spending with family or using time for oneself are better in future.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

A 6-hour work day mandated nation-wide! Jail for CEOs that abuse overtime laws! Mandated 6-weeks vacation before public holidays! I'm in charge now!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

It good that there are SOME measures being implemented to curb overtime, but I think that without serious reinforcement coupled with serious monetary compensation the overtime is just going to continue.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

If they are really expected to go home 'around five' the lights should be turned off 'around five.' Turning the lights off at 8pm is the real message being sent. Twelve hour days or more. They are moving backwards.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

This idea of switching off the lights at 8pm has been happening at IBM Japan for years now.

It doesn't work, they just turn the lights back on.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

"According to statistics from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the average Japanese put in 1,735 hours’ work in 2013, far more than the 1,489 of France and Germany’s tally of 1,388, but fewer than the 1,788 of the United States."

I think this is supposed to correctly state the average Japanese with a full-time job... The full-time employment rate figures would also be telling.

All I know is the trains home are packed from 5:30 pm so not every Japanese is into this overwork crap...

6 ( +6 / -0 )

They could reduce the number of government employees by 50 percent and no one would notice the difference.

If Abe really wants to increase efficiency and economise, this would be a good start.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

At the city office across from our office, they turn the lights off at 9pm. I never see anyone turn them back on, nor do I see people working under small lights.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

@ Strangerland.... at the city office across from my my office in the USA.... we never see them turn the lights off, because everyone leaves at 5PM while it is still light out.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

i think my japanese coworkers are like hens sitting on eggs. some odd attachment to sitting down 9-10-11-12 hours in their chair doing nothing waiting for the eggs to hatch?,,,

6 ( +6 / -0 )

These sort of management techniques are used by logistics companies in the US to save money for the corporations they work for. Its a very discreet way of pushing more work onto the worker.

As stated by Yubaru and borscht, this is a psychological technique that openly states 5pm as the cutoff, but with the genuine cutoff being around 8pm. It sounds nice, but it will absolutely be utilized to overwork.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

If Abe really wants to increase efficiency and economise, this would be a good start.

Start by instituting daylight savings time.

Upgrade computer systems, institute digital honkos/signatures, utilize actual databases and not 'Excel' databases, etc., etc.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It is a kind of system that has been on in Spain for many years (jornada intensiva). I'm all for it!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

What kind of fuzzy logic is this? You want people to work less, you get them to start work LATE, not early!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Spare me. My husband works for the government and already leaves the house before 7am and doesn't come home until at EARLIEST 9pm. They even made him travel to Sendai and back in one day to give a speech only for them to count it as a 'personal day' therefore zero overtime pay, even though he left on the first train in the morning and came back on the last at night. Unbelievable, these people.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

I don't remember ever seeing on the news that this worked last year.

Daylight savings time or, more radically, changing Japanese time year round, would be a better bet. It's ridiculous to have it get light at 4:10 a.m. in the summer - and in the hottest days, this means the sun has already been up and heating the earth for three hours before most workdays/commuter days start. You can feel the difference; at the end of the summer, when the mornings are a little shorter, it's a bit cooler even if the day itself is hellish.

I know all the DST excuses but I've also heard that one reason is that Japan WAS on DST during the Occupation, and that this memory has informed Japanese thinking on the issue ever since. I've also heard that Japan is on a different timezone from the Asian continent because otherwise they'd be in the same time zone as China. But clearly it'd be much nicer to have summer sunrise around 5:30 and the sunset around 8:00, and that could be done by switching time zones. But it'll never happen (sigh)

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Will city daycares/schools be opened earlier to help support the families where both parents work for the government? I've got a family in front of me with two kids (one in daycare, one in ele school) who are both government workers. No way in heck can they start work between 7:30/8:30 with the childcare hours. When the heck is Japan going to wake up and realize that the number of hours one spends at work doesn't mean productivity??

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Most newer clocks, smartphones and computers automatically adjust for DST, so it's a non issue. Where I am in US, we are as far north as Hokkaido, so we get a lot more sunlight than Tokyo in the summer. No matter, how many hours one works should not depend on how long the day is. It should go by the clock, with strong labor laws to back it up. I don't work a minute over 8 hours, not because I'm lazy, but because my boss would not allow it. Many times, I told him 'I'm just finishing up, give me 5 more minutes!' His response? 'No, you're done. Please go home.' My boss is a nice guy, but more importantly, he doesn't want to run afoul of US labor law.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Nothing new from Japan, squeezing every bit of "efficiency" from their tired and soulless workers while the Tokyo governor spends millions in taxpayer money on lavish trips/expenses, bows once, and is forgiven.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I think we all know that this just means mandatory early start, and "optional" early finish, meaning it's up to the offices and companies if they wish their employees to finish late. They are effectively turning an already 12 hour work day for many into a 13 or 14 hour day, not including the commute. But of course, no company or office in Japan has ever or will ever disobey overtime laws! We know that, too! Get ready for the suicide rate to increase.

The sensible option, of course, would be to introduce daylight saving's time, but any time an idea comes from outside Japan some here are so wrapped up in insecurity they will do anything and everything to avoid doing what is practical.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

but any time an idea comes from outside Japan some here are so wrapped up in insecurity they will do anything and everything to avoid doing what is practical

Do you honestly believe that is true?

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

If they were serious about this they would just make it mandatory for everyone to start at 8:30am and finish at 5:00pm no exceptions (especially the boss) with anyone caught over that time disciplined. Sorted! But because they know how Japanese work culture operates they can make these statements knowing they are going to get the same amount of work out of their staff or more, while pretending to be sympathetic to the need for recreational downtime for staff. Do Japanese people really believe all this nonsense?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Punishment, no one leaves early ever in Japan.... in fact no one leaves on time either.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I have worked with hundreds of Japanese government employees over the years and they are among the most overworked workers in the country. They don't always get paid overtime and often work weekends when 'something urgent' is happening (which is most of the time). It will be very hard to change one of the lowest production cultures overnight, but good luck!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Japanese Government "logic" at its best.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Turn the lights out lol. My office lights turn off at 8pm year round but luckily there is always someone on the spot to turn them back on. Guess it will be the same for hapless Govt employees too :)

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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