Shorter workweek would help fight coronavirus, allow more time for family and education, proponents say.

Overall, I think we’re all in agreement that the coronavirus pandemic has been a net negative. If you squint, though, you might be able to spot a silver lining around the gigantic corona-cloud, and part of that is Japan finally rethinking some of its work culture norms.

We’ve already seen many Japanese businesses implement telecommuting options for the first time in their histories, leading to a reduction in all-hands meetings about nothing and mandatory company drinking parties. Now comes another proposal that’s likely to be popular with workers: a government-backed system that would allow workers in Japan to work only four days a week.

The idea is being spearheaded by Japanese politician Kuniko Inoguchi, a member of the House of Councillors representing a district of Chiba Prefecture. Inoguchi, who’s part of the Liberal Democratic Party, is introducing a proposal that would establish a framework wherein workers in Japan could opt for a four-day workweek while still being guaranteed that they can keep their jobs. Citing examples of companies in Japan that have already implemented such systems, the proposal declares “We have seen that Japan has a latent ability to create flexible work environments and workstyles.”

By reducing the number of workers in offices and on commuter trains on a given day, the proposal would have a positive effect on anti-coronavirus efforts. However, that’s not its only goal. Other hoped-for benefits of letting people have a three-day weekend every week are giving them more time in their schedules for taking care of children or elderly relatives, pursuing educational opportunities such as graduate courses, and allowing them to explore side business ventures.

▼ Odds are this guy isn’t thinking “Man, I wish I was in the office right now…”

Both Microsoft Japan and Mizuho Financial Group already allow employees to opt for shorter workweeks, but to encourage smaller organizations to follow suit Inoguchi’s proposal would offer government-provided financial incentives for companies willing to walk away from a mandatory five-day workweek.

However, one question that immediately springs to mind is how a shorter workweek would affect worker incomes. It seems unlikely that companies would continue paying employees 100 percent of their salary while only asking them to do 80 percent of the work they used to do. In regards to this, the proposal cites Japanese companies that have offer a four-day week at 80 percent of base pay, or a three-day week at 60 percent.

▼ This guy probably actually is thinking “Man, I wish I were making money in the office right now.”

Precisely proportional pay cuts would essentially transform full-time workers into part-time workers (albeit with job security and benefits of full-time staff). Conversely, if companies continue to offer four-day workers their pre-existing salary, they may expect them to continue doing as much work as they used to do, just in four days instead of five. Many workers in Japan, though, already struggle to complete their assignments in five days (as evidenced by all the overtime done in Japanese offices), and trying to cram all of it into just four days might not be good for their mental or physical health.

Of course, as long as a four-day workweek option is just that, a voluntary option, it’d be a nice accommodation for workers who see an overall upside to whatever combination of reduced pay or busier individual workdays it might entail. However, Japanese workers who already don’t find themselves with a ton of energy after their shift or a pile of cash in their bank account at the end of the month might not be so eager to make the shift.

Source: Sankei Shimbun via Yahoo! Japan News via Jin
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso (1, 2)
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!