Japan: Work earlier in summer months, says PM

A Japanese worker rubbing his eyes while crossing a road on the way to work Image copyright AFP
Image caption Workers in Japan often put in long hours and take little holiday time

Japanese government employees should get to work earlier in the summer to improve their work-life balance, the country's leader has said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants civil servants to avoid working overtime and spend more time at home during the longer summer days, the Kyodo news agency reports. His cabinet is launching a campaign to encourage "a change of lifestyle in summer", suggesting people get to the office between 07:30 and 08:30 local time in July and August - an hour or two earlier than normal - and that they clock-out at about 17:00 in the afternoon. Mr Abe says it will improve efficiency and allow people to spend more time with friends and family after work. Officials say it will also help men to get involved with child-rearing - something the government is keen to encourage.

While the campaign is aimed at government staff, Mr Abe wants the private sector to get on board with the idea too. Japan has notoriously long working hours and a culture that values "employee loyalty", meaning many people take nowhere near their full annual leave entitlement. While OECD figures on working hours put the country slightly below average, it's thought that could be due to a high proportion of part-time employees. Working an average of 1,745 hours each year, Japanese workers still clock up far more hours than their British or German counterparts.

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