Japan’s salary-men are saying sayonara to the country’s culture of overwork — with the backing of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Long days in the office followed by long nights drinking with colleagues are as much a symbol of Japan as sushi or manga comics. But the culture has been blamed for several of the country’s ills, from its dearth of babies to lackluster productivity, while a tight labor market is shifting the balance of power from companies to workers.
So, in a break with the past, Japan Inc is making a virtue of what is normal practice elsewhere in the world. Trading house Itochu hopes to lure recent graduates with earlier starting and finishing times, while printer maker Ricoh is banning work after 8pm. Fast Retailing, operator of the Uniqlo clothing chain, is looking to introduce a four-hour day for employees who want a better work-life balance.