JAPAN MULLS 4-DAY WORK WEEK
Japan's government plans to encourage firms to let their employees choose to work four days a week instead of five, aiming to improve the balance between work and life for people who have family care responsibilities or need more time off to acquire new skills.
Kyodo News reported that the government included the promotion of an optional four-day workweek in its annual economic policy guideline finalized Friday by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's Cabinet.
Experts are divided, however, on whether the new initiative, intended to address challenges posed by the country's labor shortage, will be widely accepted, with labor and management both voicing concerns about possible unwanted outcomes.
For employers, while people working four days a week may become more motivated, this may not improve their productivity enough to compensate for the lost workday.
Employees, meanwhile, fear pay cuts.
Among expected advantages are helping people with family-care responsibilities avoid the need to quit their jobs, promotion of recurrent education, and helping more people take on side jobs, the government said.
The coronavirus pandemic has helped the idea of a four-day workweek gain traction as the health crisis causes people to spend more time at home.
In late April, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party recommended that the government take policy measures to facilitate the adoption of the system.
The LDP said working fewer days is expected to promote "diversified working styles" and prompt workers with new skills to move to grow industries such as IT.
At a key economic and fiscal policy panel meeting in mid-April where the promotion of a four-day workweek was discussed, Suga said his government would consider expanding support for people willing to enhance their careers through recurrent education without leaving their jobs.