By Julian Ryall
Japan has announced new laws to force workers to go on holiday.
Japanese workers are so reluctant to leave their offices that they took less than half their holiday entitlement in 2013. The government now wants to raise that total to 70 per cent by 2020, according to the Yomiuri newspaper.
In an uncertain economy, Japanese companies are demanding more of their staff. Many younger workers are expected to put in as many as 100 hours of overtime a month.
But almost two-thirds of workers were also unwilling to take their allotted holidays because “it would inconvenience their colleagues”, according to a study by the Japan Institute for Labour Policy Training. More than half of them also said they simply had no time for holidays because of their heavy workload.
Workers said that anyone taking time off in such a stagnant economy risked being perceived as lacking commitment.
As a result, Japan’s curse of “karoshi”, or death by overwork, has spread from older, senior employees, to younger staff.
At present, employees are entitled to a minimum of 10 days paid leave annually, with the figure increasing one day for every year that they work to a maximum of 20 days a year.
And while the Labour Standards Law requires firms to grant paid holidays, the assumption is that employees request that leave. If they fail to do so, the company is not violating the law.
Under the revised law, which is to be discussed in the Diet when it reconvenes in late January, companies will be required to ensure that their employees take time off.
The government said the revisions are designed to prevent overwork and to enable employees to have an appropriate “work-life balance”.