Japan Inc and the government are trying to tackle overwork

Mar 22, 2018

Dreaming of lifestyle change

SANAE ABUTA is a manager at Panasonic, a giant electronics manufacturer, in Osaka. One day she may work from 9am to 5.45pm. On another she may take a break in the middle, to go to the bank or see a doctor. Or she will stay with her child in the morning and start at 11am. One day a week she works from home. “I appreciate the flexibility,” she says.

Ms Abuta’s schedule is unusual in Japan. Long office hours are seen a proxy for hard work, itself regarded as the cornerstone of Japan’s post-war economic boom. Companies offer to look after employees for life in return for a willingness to dedicate that life to the company, including “service” (ie, unpaid) overtime or moving house on demand. People hesitate to leave the office before their peers, and certainly before their boss. Some sleep at their desks. Convenience stores sell shirts for workers who have no time to go home and change. Death by overwork is so common—191 people in the...Continue reading


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