Home Daily Blitz Can Cutting Work Hours Solve Japan’s Productivity Puzzle?

Can Cutting Work Hours Solve Japan’s Productivity Puzzle?

Fatigued Japanese businesswoman with head leaning on face working late at the office

The following is an excerpt from Rochelle Kopp | September 4, 2017 | BBC.com |

The Japanese government is hoping a single phrase can overhaul its economy and stop its salarymen and women from working themselves to death. Hatarakikata kaikaku or “work style reform” is an urgent bid to tackle a workplace culture so punishing that the word karoshi, or dying from overwork, has entered the lexicon.

The phrase, promoted recently by Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, is a catch-all for cutting overtime, improved work-life balance, and better use of female and older workers’ skills. Used informally for years, hatarakikata kaikaku became a national slogan in August 2016, after Abe appointed a Cabinet minister devoted to the topic.

A workplace culture of long hours and rigid hierarchies that served the country well during its high growth years in the 1960s, 70s and 80s has become a thorn in its side. The country’s productivity statistics have languished at the bottom of the G7 and well below the OECD average. And with an ageing and shrinking workforce, Japan’s only hope for economic growth (other than immigration at a scale that would not be supported by the Japanese public) lies in increasing productivity.

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