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More Japanese firms to offer 4-day work week

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The Japanese who are notorious for their overtime culture has decided that it is time to change.

According to the nation’s Labor Ministry, 8% of Japanese companies offered a four-day work week in 2015, the percentage tripled over a decade, the Nikkei Asian Review reports.

The extra day off aims to improve employee’s  work-life balance, enabling more people with child and elderly care responsibilities to work.

KFC Holdings Japan is among the big-name companies that have adopted the initiative.  The fast-food giant introduced a 20 hours work week and allow employees to choose three days off per week.   The company hopes this will help retain more workers.

Retail chain Uniqlo also has similar arrangement and Yahoo Japan plan to reduce the number of working days to four days per week by 2020.

“We don’t see the three-day weekend system as the end goal but an option,” Yahoo Japan spokeswoman Megumi Yagita told Bloomberg.

“By giving employees more freedom on how to work, we’re hoping that employees choose a style that lets them perform at their best, so that we boost productivity,” she added.

Japanese working class is no stranger to the term “death by overwork”.  The tragic incident of  Matsuri Takahashi, a 24-years-old employee at advertising agency Dentsu, once again raise public’s attention towards extended working hours. Takahashi  committed suicide on Christmas Day in 2015 after doing more than 105 hours of overtime work for the month.

After the incident, Dentsu announced new measures such as switching off the office lights between 10pm and 5am.

On more Japanese firms having a four-day work week,  Tetsu Washitani, an economics professor at Chuo University believes the motive comes from labor shortages.  “In recent years, labor shortages have prompted more businesses outside big cities to adopt” the system.  If the change can be adopted while minimizing increases in daily work hours, that would increase efficiency as well,”  he said.

ALSO READ: Japanese firms look to amend working hours

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