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25th Jun 2021

Japan becomes the latest country to introduce plans for a four-day work week

Kieran Galpin

An extra day for Netflix, in fairness.

The Japanese government has proposed a new movement whereby companies are encouraged to allow their staff to work a four-day week instead of the typical five. This decision comes as part of an initiative to increase the work-life balance and better support the country’s economy.

Of course, the new policy would be optional, though staff would be encouraged to take the company up on the offer. A social experiment conducted in Spain found that productivity increased between 25 per cent and 50 per cent when workers were given the option to work a four-day week.

But how does that benefit the country? The Japanese government have said that employers will be able to retain long-term staff that would usually leave to look after children or perhaps take care of elderly relatives.

An extra free day a week would allow staff to take up new hobbies, enter further education, learn new skills, or pick up a new side hustle. It would also give more time for people to spend money, meaning that the economy would grow. The government reports that the move would also increase free time, leading to more Japanese youth dating, travelling, starting families and crucially – not working.

This comes after a similar trial scheme launched in Ireland earlier this week. The experiment, which will commence in January, will monitor the productivity, work/life balance, well being, and household division of labour of employees across a number of businesses working under a four day week with no loss of income.

Four Day Week Ireland Chairperson Joe O’Connor said that the scheme should enable Irish workers to better manage a work/life balance. In the last year we have seen radical shifts in our working practices,” he said. “More flexible ways of working are here to stay.

“This year has also given people a chance to reflect on what they value most and how they want to manage their working lives, and so now is absolutely the right time to rethink, review and change the way we do things, and move to a four-day week. We know from international research that a shorter working week doesn’t mean a loss in productivity – in many cases, it is the opposite.

“The launch of the four-day week pilot programme represents an exciting moment of change for employers and employees, and it’s up to the business community now to show that they are willing to lead and support this change for the better.”