Business › Japanese firms still slow in reducing overtime: survey


Moves by Japan’s major corporations to reduce overtime work are still coming slowly, with only one in four companies saying they plan to introduce a cap, a recent Kyodo News survey showed.

In the survey of 104 companies’ employees and hiring plans, 98 firms said they have a labor-management agreement to allow workers to work beyond the upper limits they set.

Long working hours have drawn renewed attention in Japan after the suicide of an overworked employee of Dentsu Inc in late 2015 and a consequent labor bureau crackdown on the major advertising group came as a fresh reminder of the country’s notorious ethos of overwork as well as on the shrinking working population.

Of those 98 firms, 40 said their cap on monthly overtime work is set above 80 hours, a level said to cause serious health consequences. Some 12 companies allowed overtime of 100 hours or longer per month, with the longest being 135 hours, according to the survey conducted between late February and mid-March.

Some 24 companies said they will lower the cap while 20 said they have no plan to review their work hour cap, suggesting a large portion of the surveyed firms are cautious about changing their overtime rules before the government finalizes its labor law reform to change the country’s deep-rooted culture of working long hours.

Of the surveyed firms including such major corporations as Sony Corp, Takeda Pharmaceutical Co, Toyota Motor Corp and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc, 99 said they are taking measures to reduce their employees’ working hours, although 31 said the government’s labor reform could negatively affect their business.

Companies in Japan are under pressure to improve working conditions for their employees also out of need to attract talent amid the shrinking population.

A government study has shown that the country’s working population in the age group of between 15 and 24 years is set to drop to 4.85 million in 2030 from 9.00 million in 1994.

Among 78 firms which have already made their hiring plans for the business year starting in April 2018, 21, or 27%, said they plan to recruit more new graduates than they have for the upcoming business year starting April 1.

In the previous survey a year ago, 24% said they would increase their hiring of new graduates for the year beginning next month.

The companies hoping to hire more new graduates in 2018 include Canon Inc, Kyocera Corp and door-to-door parcel delivery provider Yamato Holdings Co whose unpaid overtime wages and review of labor-management contract have become a high-profile social topic highlighting labor shortages particularly in service industries.


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