Four-day week: 67% of Japanese want more days off

In recent times, different markets in Europe have conducted trials over a four-day working week. Sweden was one of the first markets, and the trial in UK, organised by 4 Day Week Global, took place between June and December 2022. In Europe, the results have been positive, however, no legal change or enforcement is expected. In this context, Rakuten Insight wanted to investigate, by asking 1,000 consumers from their own proprietary panel in Japan, how Japanese workers use their days off from work for personal growth, refreshment, and rest. The results were as follows:

Employees desire more days off

When asked about their current number of holidays, 90% answered ‘two days off per week’, followed by a much lower 7% answering ‘one day off per week.’

67% of respondents answered that they would like the number of holidays at their workplaces to increase. Surprisingly 31% are satisfied with their current number of days off, stating that they could leave them as they were. By age group, it is the younger age group who are more progressive, with 76% of those in their 20s answering ‘I want more’.

When asked about their ideal number of days off, 78% of those who answered that they would like to have more days off answered 3 days.

Hobbies, rest, and emotional refreshment

When asked why they wanted more days off, the most common answer was ‘I want more time for my hobbies’ (50%). This is consistent with the findings from the UK trial, where many people used the additional day off per week to pursue their hobbies. The next most popular answer was ‘to rest my body’ (46%), followed by ‘to refresh my feelings’ (45%).

Resting physically and emotionally was more than 10 points higher for females than males. For females, “to rest” was 61% and “to refresh my mind’ 54%, compared to 38% and 39% for men.

Home or away, sleep or shop

When asked how they spend their days off, 61% said they wanted to spend their days off at home, while 39% said they wanted to spend them away from home. By gender, 48% of women in their 20s want to spend time away from home.

Also, when asked how they mainly spend their days off, the most common answer was ‘sleep well’ (26%), followed by ‘shopping’ (24%) and ‘time with family’ (19%). By gender, for women, ‘shopping’ (31%), ‘housework’ (29%), and ‘time with friends/acquaintances’ (17%) were higher than the overall.

When asked what time they went to bed the night before the holiday, 48% answered that they ‘sleep later than usual’.

Paid holiday leave

When it comes to paid holiday leave, the most commonly stated way of spending their paid holidays was ‘travel’ (27%), followed by ‘time with family’ (19%) and ‘sleeping late’ (18%).

By gender, ‘travel’ (33%), ‘Shopping’ (22%), and ‘Time with friends/acquaintances’ (17%) were 5 points or more higher for females. Whilst ‘Sports/training’ (6%) was higher for men.

The struggle for consecutive days off

The image of time off being difficult to obtain for the average Japanese salaryman was evident. As was the cultural sensitivity to how their taking leave will be perceived and impact others. More than half of the respondents answered that it is ‘difficult to obtain’ two or more consecutive days of paid leave. The top reason is ‘Because if I take a day off, it will be a burden on my colleagues.’

Taking paid leave for up to one day was seen to be less of a burden, with 75% stating that it was ‘easy to take’ paid leave for up to one day.

The cultural sensitivities of requesting paid leave, as could be imagined, is more keenly felt by the older age groups, with more than 30% of women in their 40s and 50s stating that it was difficult to take a paid leave of up to one day. Moreover, about 60% of women in their 40s stated that it is difficult to take paid leave for 2 or more consecutive days (40s: 58%, 50s: 62%).

Point of View

With the 4 day week schemes gaining a lot of press coverage in Europe, Rakuten Insight wanted to discover how the Japanese worker felt about time off work. A few key findings emerged. Firstly, 67% want the number of holidays to increase with 3 days day being the ideal number of days off per week. Secondly, hobbies are a focus for how to spend the extra day off. Finally, days off are still perceived to be difficult to obtain, especially for the older age groups, however, there are signs that times are changing with the more progressive younger age groups. In summary, there is every indication that if Europe were to push ahead with a 4-day working week, then the average Japanese salaryman would hope that Japan would follow suit.

Related articles: Japanese Consumers Views on Theme Parks, Japan – Sustainable fashion

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