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Asia Minute: More of corporate Japan is trying a four-day workweek

Sofia Terzoni from Pixabay

The pandemic has changed the workweek for many people, but it’s not the only factor leading to certain adjustments. And some changes are taking place in unusual places.

Panasonic has made a move that’s surprised many observers: offering an optional four-day workweek.

It’s not a shock for a company in the technology field, but it is still unusual in corporate Japan.

CEO Yuki Kusumi told an investor briefing last week that employees can use the four-day workweek to do volunteer work — or even a side job.

He said, “Our responsibility is to strike an ideal balance between the work style and lifestyle for our diverse human capital.”

Analysts say it’s the competition for “diverse human capital” — otherwise known as “talent” that is driving the change.

A 2020 survey by the Labor Ministry found a little more than 8% of Japanese companies give the option of a four-day workweek.

Even when it’s offered, not everyone rushes to take it — after all, it does come with a cut in pay — but for some, the tradeoff is worth it.

And while it’s far from a universal option, more companies are trying it.

Japan’s Nikkei newspaper reports drugmaker Shionogi and Company will offer a four-day workweek in the spring, joining others from Fast Retailing — the parent company of Uniqlo to the Mizuho Financial Group.

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