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Japan: 'Stop working, start spending!'

February 24, 2017

In a bid to crack down on Japan's notorious culture of overwork, some employers in the Asian nation have now joined a government campaign to let employees start the weekend early - and boost consumption.

Japanese office workers
Image: Reuters/T. Peter

More and more companies in workaholic Japan are getting creative with how to get employees out the door early. The government has just launched its Premium Friday campaign, encouraging firms to let workers go a few hours early on the last Friday of the month.

The campaign calls on workers to leave the office at around 3 p.m. in what is yet another attempt to reduce excessive overwork in the country, the "Japan Times" reports.

"Excessive working hours have become a big problem," Sunny Side Up Chief Executive Etsuko Tshugihara told Reuters. "We were thinking of ways to improve our own working environment when the government came up with Premium Friday, and we though it was a god idea."

Tshugihara added that "in creative industries like ours, inspiration won't come just from staying in the office for a long time; you need to take some time off, breathe new air and see new things and you'll be refreshed when you come back on Monday."

Outcome uncertain

Tokyo's idea is that the campaign will dovetail nicely with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's drive to fuel domestic consumption.

As the campaign is aimed at giving workers more time to go on a spending spree on Friday afternoon, businesses across the Asian nation are hoping to cash in on the move, the "Japan Times" reports.

It's expected that the travel and restaurant industries will be the biggest beneficiaries of the Premium Friday campaign.

While this may be true, some experts warn the campaign may not meet its primary objective of reducing overwork, arguing it may simply lead to an additional burden on employees on other days of the week as stricter regulations capping working hours in general are not yet in place in Japan.

hg/jd (Reuters, Japan Times)