Skipping Vacation May Soon Be Illegal in Japan
In other news, we're moving to Japan.
It’s safe to say that most working people in America would like to escape the office and lounge on a beach with a daiquiri or unplug for a week on a remote island, but they just can't find the right time to abandon their jobs, even for a few days. It’s safe to say this because nearly half of Americans didn’t take a single vacation day last year and in total we left about 169 million vacation days unused. Japan suffers from the same issue of overwork, but now those in power are doing something about it. The Diet—the Japanese parliament—is set to debate and vote on legislation this term that will not only ensure workers receive paid time off, it will legally mandate that they take it. Japanese Prime Minister [FULL NAME ]Abe and his administration have been battling the Japanese idea of Karoshi, or working yourself to death for some time. (That is not a figure of speech by the way, people actually die from overwork.) Unfortunately, they've come up against cultural norms which demand Japanese workers stay at the office long hours, sleep little and sometimes skip meals. Overworked employees in Japan have been in the spotlight recently thanks to a viral video diary taken last month documenting the workweek of a normal white-collar worker or salaryman. You can see it below. Spoiler alert: he doesn’t sleep much.
The proposed law would require Japanese employees to take a minimum of five days of vacation every year. That’s still not much when you consider employers must give their workers 18.5 days of vacation every year, but it’s a start. The government hasn’t given any indication of what the enforcement mechanism might be if workers still refuse to take days off. It makes us wonder if sending someone to jail for a week technically counts as a vacation. Regardless of how they choose to enforce the law, it is a good first step. And if there are American legislators out there reading this, mandating vacation seems like a solid platform to run on in 2016.