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Asia Minute: Feel Like a 4-Day Workweek?


You might be starting a four-day work week today. Yesterday’s observance of Presidents’ Day was a holiday for some workers, although not for everyone. But the idea of a permanently shortened work week is growing in popularity in many places. And that includes some countries in the Asia Pacific.

To most people, a four-day workweek may sound like a pretty good idea. Organizers of the World Economic Forum call it a global trend. But the key to the success of this idea lies in the details.

In Japan, twice as many companies offer a four-day work week than did ten years ago. But according to the Labor Ministry, it’s still fewer than 10-percent of privately held companies with 30 or more employees. And most haven’t cut work hours, they’ve just squeezed five 8-hour days into four ten-hour days.

Other Japanese companies offer four 8-hour days, but at lower pay. It’s probably not a shock the Labor Ministry says that’s not a popular option.

In New Zealand, some companies have taken an approach that’s much more popular with workers. Financial planning company Perpetual Guardian cut its work week to four 8-hour days, but with the same pay as a forty-hour week. The company says the move has cut stress levels for employees—and boosted their commitment to the firm.

The other end of the spectrum may be in the Philippines — where the House of Representatives approved a different kind of four-day work week in 2017. In that country, overtime payments start after 48 hours of work. Which means a four day work week is 4 twelve-hour days – not exactly the route to a better work-life balance.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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