Are Working Hours Too Long In Japan?

One of the most read stories on SNS news site mixi News yesterday was based on a 2ch thread that decried the long working hours in Japan.

A recent survey by the Japanese Trade Union Confederation(JTUC) showed that average working hours in Japan are 8.9 hours per day, which for 2ch netizens was just too much.

It’s also worth noting that recent OECD data show that annual working hours are actually higher in the US than they are in Japan.

mixi netizens agree that current working hours in Japan are long, but many think that they are also necessary if people want to maintain a certain lifestyle.

What do you think? Is 8 hours a day too much? Or a distant dream compared to your 60 hour week?

From mixi News:

People Agree That “Working 8 Hours A Day Is Too Long To Begin With”; “It Would Be Ideal To Work 6 Hours A Day Four Days A Week”; “People Work Too Much”

According to a survey by the Japanese Trade Union Confederation(JTUC), Japanese workers work on average 8.9 hours a day. It is assumed that most people return home after doing over an hour’s overtime added to 8 working hours per day.

Amidst this, on August 27, opinions to the effect that “an 8 hour working day in itself is waaay to long” appeared on, and the thread became busy. The OP called themself “corporate slave”, and had doubts about long working hours. They revealed their own discontent with work, saying that “I get paid for all my overtime, but I don’t actually want to do a single second of overtime at all”.

“6 Hours A Day Would Be Good” “I’d Rather Do A 13 Hour Day But Have 4 Days Off A Week”

There were a lot of opinions agreeing with these statements. As expected, a lot of people felt that “8 hours a day, 5 days a week was tiring as hell”. Someone suggested that “6 hours a day would be good”, saying that it would be better to work 9am – 4pm with an hour break, and that “people work too much”. There were also those who said that they should have more breaks, and that “6 hours a day with a 4 day week would be ideal”.

There was also someone who didn’t like working 8 hours a day and so became self-employed. Apparently it was difficult at first to make the business stable and to guarantee and income, but they said that “Now if I work 7 hours a day and have three days off a week on the whole I can make a decent living without too much trouble”. The only thing was that if they were to have an accident or become ill, their income would drop to zero, so that was a concern.

And from those who live in a different place to where they work, there were suggests about how to reduce the number of days they work, since if you go out to work five days a week, then pretty much all your time is taken up commuting and this makes the hours you work in a day longer.

“It takes me 1 ½ hours each way to get to and from work. So the total journey is 3 hours there and back. In that case, to a certain extent it’s not really worth it for me unless I work long hours. So couldn’t I work 4 days a week and do 13 hour days?”

Is The Day Coming When People Are Free From Work?

But there were also posts that say long working hours were inevitable. “If you don’t do overtime then your wage will be so low it’ll kill you”. However, the root of the issue was that the basic salary is set too low. So perhaps it is necessary to either raise the base salary, or to establish a personnel system where we evaluate work based on its results rather than on the amount of time we’re at work.

By the way, those people who claimed that an 8 hour working day was long also questioned why humans still had to work long hours at all, when in the 21st century science had come so far.

“If we assume that virtually all work can be done by machines, and humans are happy to do as little as possible, then there would be no need for them to work at all, but for some reason this hasn’t happened”.

Will the day when people are free from work ever come?

Comments from mixi:

Even if labor gets mechanized, that doesn’t mean that humans will become aristocracy. They’ll just become unemployed.

I reckon that the biggest problem for people who say this kind of stuff is that they tend to think that even if they were to reduce their working hours, the people around them would continue to work without changing a thing, and the same services would continue to be supplied to them.

A lot of people will be thinking, “Man, I’m jealous that you only have to work an 8 hour day”.

So go ahead and work those ideal hours. But you’ll have to give up on your ideal salary and your ideal job, OK? You should know that the world ain’t gonna go the way you want, and there’s no reason it should.

Sure. The working hours of someone guarding their own home 24 hrs a day 365 days a year are too long.

In Europe, this kind of thing would be, quite obviously, expressed through a protest. But in Japan, it just becomes 2ch fodder. We really need to think about the difference between those two things.

We work too much and our wages are too low! We sell things cheap and increase the amount of work…Although the number of conveniences we have like computers and stuff should be on the rise, why are we all still working overtime? (´・_・`)

It’s thought that we divide one day into three parts, then we work for 8 hours, we sleep for 8 hours, and we have 8 hours for ourselves, but the most dubious out of these is that we actually have 8 hours for ourselves. There’s even less when you take commuting into account.

It’s only the Japanese who are stupid enough to work too much…There are still idiots around who think that it’s erudite to work long hours, so it’s really unbelievable…why don’t they realize that it’s incompetence if you can’t complete your work within your working hours?

I’d be happy if they’d just include the commute in the working hours.

Someone must have made a society and working environment where if we work for more than 8 hours we can just about live day to day without missing any meals. And we’re the ones doing as best we can to do that! Hmm…how about that.

Rather than saying working hours are too long or too short, it’s actually more important to say “Can I save enough to get by from my wage?”

8 hours a day would be fine if that included both your commute and your breaks. We work too much and we make others work too much. Back in the day, there were no convenience stores and there was no such thing as next day delivery. But we still got by.

Best thing would be that we got money even if we didn’t work (*^^*)

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  • risotto

    At my job, we are given the option of a base 8 hour 5 day work week with two days off, or 10 hour 4 day work week with three days off. We are understaffed, so there’s a shit-ton of overtime, and double-shifts (volunteer basis only) can be common. That said, I vastly prefer the 4-10’s. The extra day off more than makes up for the extra 2 hours…

  • Dan

    I work 7 hour days, 5x a week. It’s actually 7 hours and an 1hr unpaid lunch.

    So I’m not sure how to interpret this article. Does lunch factor in or not? because 8.9hr workdays + 1hr lunch is crazy.

    • guest

      It obviously depends on the person and their job, but from what I understand, some people in Japan do work sometimes ridiculously long hours, both due to actual work present and due to a cultural desire to not be seen as lazy, to not have to have your co-workers pick up your slack, and to give your all for your company. Which may have been fine when the company guaranteed you a life-time employment and pension, as it did in Japan, but that’s definitely no longer the case.

      There are horror stories of people putting in 100 hour weeks, week after week and month after month, eventually just having a complete breakdown. And who can blame them? Then people ask why there are so many Japanese who don’t have a relationship, don’t get married and have kids. How can you possible do so with a life like that? All you can hope for, after your mandatory after-hour company drinking of course, is to go home, maybe try to engage in whatever few hobbies you have time for, and crash.

      That’s not to say overwork is the sole reason for the above issues, it’s a complex societal phenomenon, or that everybody has jobs like that. These are extreme examples, I would say that the majority of jobs have more reasonable hours/demands, but it’s still indicative of a problem that needs to be addressed somehow. The government has started to try, mandating that employees actually use their time off, so it’s at least a start.

    • Yolanee

      What do you do on a hour long lunch?

      • Dan

        read book, play Hearthstone :/

  • Claude

    Outsource your job to someone in India or subcontract it to someone locally. 😉 No one has to know.

  • NondescriptRG

    Not one comment says about the necessity of transition to communism and the destruction of goods-for-money system. That’s depressing.

    • Anon

      That’s because people usually outgrow the idea of communism after teenagehood

      • NondescriptRG

        You cannot outgrow the idea of communism in any age in the same way that you cannot outgrow the second law of thermodynamics – it is the fact of science.

  • vonskippy

    “Working Hours to Long”. They’re not working long hours, they’re just spending long hours at work. 80% of the day is spent on needless ass kissing and useless company policies. Japan needs to figure out how to work smarter/better/more efficient – not just spend more hours doing nothing productive. Step one – lose the good old boy mentality. It’s not your grandpa’s work force anymore.

    • Claude

      Traditionally they can’t leave until the sun goes down or before the their boss does. It shows a lack of commitment to the company. So yeah, many are just killing the day off. One reason many are afraid the Government will adopt daylight savings and bump the clocks back two hours is because they’ll feel obligated hanging around in the office even longer. Slave nation.

      How can you loose the good old boy mentality when so many work so hard and long to get there and bask in when they arrive flogging it for everything it’s worth? Some love being the office Senpai even though their skills are outdated and minds are rotting from alcohol and intellectual inactivity for so many years.

      • etiennes

        The sun goes down at 6pm. Their boss is probably busy on Line chatting to Filipina bar girls. Everybody is sooo afraid to speak up against the status quo (which, admittedly, can be still be life threatening in a country like Japan), so nothing will change from the inside of such a society.
        They need more education from outside.

  • P

    13 hours for 4 days would be 52 hour weeks?

    • vonskippy

      10 x 4 = 40 + 3 x 4 = 12, add the two together and it equals 52. Perhaps you should use a calculator for such higher math questions.

  • etiennes

    I worked in several Japanese offices and I’ve never met someone there who worked hard. As in “getting a lot of things done”, or “solving complicated problems”. They stay long hours but the actual work they get done is laughable. Maybe that’s why Japan is overtaken by other Asian nations?

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