This Japanese TV show about work-life balance is a big hit – here’s why

Japanese 19

(Sorasak, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Kate Whiting, Senior Writer, Formative Content


The first series of Japanese network TBS’s Watashi, Teiji de Kaerimasu (“I Will Not Work Overtime, Period!”) ended in June, having built up a firm following on social media: 74,000 Twitter followers and 93,000 Instagram followers, to date.

It wasn’t just the love triangle between colleagues that got viewers talking – it was the determination of Yui Higashiyama (Yuriko Yoshitaka) to leave the office on time, when the clock struck 18.00.

The show is based on the novel of the same name by Kaeruko Akeno, who had struggled with Japan’s culture of ‘presenteeism’ – when job insecurity leads to employees putting in long working hours just to be seen to be in the office.

The mother-of-two told The New York Times she was writing up until she was taken into the delivery room to have her second child: “What is considered honourable isn’t how much you achieve, but how you manage to never take a rest…

“It took me such a long time to accept the fact that it’s OK not to work on weekends or on weekday nights.”

Long days

In Japan, the percentage of employees who work more than 50-hour weeks, considered “very long hours”, is almost 18%, considerably higher than the OECD average of 11%.

Image: Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare

The country even has a phrase for death by overwork – “Karoshi”, meaning sudden death from heart failure, stroke, or committing suicide due to stress and sleep deprivation.

Japanese government data shows the number of deaths from brain and heart diseases or suicide caused by overworking stayed at around 200 for the five years up to 2016.

While Japan has a long history of working hard, stemming from the pre-war days when many lived in poverty, the phrase karoshi was coined in the 1970s.

In Watashi, Teiji de Kaerimasu, Yui’s determination to leave her web design company on time each day stems from not having seen much of her own father due to his punishing work schedule.

 

Work-life balance

Image: OECD

But the enlightened boss of the fictional firm Net Heroes actively encourages her, reflecting a new Japanese law that limits overtime to no more than 45 hours a month. Companies violating the rules may be fined.

The legislation currently only targets big companies, but there are plans to roll it out to small and medium-sized businesses from next year.

The government has also launched an unusual public advertising campaign, designed to stop big companies passing on the stress of limited hours to smaller ones, with the slogan: “Stop bullying subcontractors!”

The cap on working hours is part of recently reelected prime minister Shinzo Abe’s labour reform strategy, designed to tackle Japan’s shrinking workforce.

Some critics are sceptical whether the new laws will ease Japan’s overworking culture. But with the government and TV stations embracing the idea of going home on time, things could be moving in the right direction for the country’s workforce.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

UN human rights chief denounces grave ‘assaults’ on fundamental rights of Palestinian people

Solitary Britain sides with US aggressing Russia and chooses hard Brexit

State aid: Commission invites comments on simplified rules for State aid combined with EU support

The energy industry is changing. Are governments switched on?

Countries must up their game to reduce low birth weights, warns UN-backed report

Trump: Hostile to Europe, voids Tillerson’s “ironclad” ally pledge

The impact of COVID-19 on the life of the elderly

UN aid teams scramble to reach ‘most remote places’ cut off by Cyclone Kenneth in Mozambique

Nearly 900 children released by north-east Nigeria armed group

Trade Committee advocates lower tariffs in Western Sahara

5 post-COVID trends from Indian entrepreneurs

Rights experts call for greater protection of indigenous people during migration

Can I still send mail in the time of coronavirus?

FROM THE FIELD: Powering up health care in Sub-Saharan Africa

Capitalism’s greatest weakness? It confuses price with value

The Commission accused of tolerating corruption and fraud in taxation

4 key ways countries can finance their SDG ambitions

Digital Green Certificate is the right move but speeding up vaccination is key

UN chief praises Malaysia’s death penalty repeal as ‘major step forward’

‘Eco-shaming’ is on the rise, but does it work?

Population in crisis hit EU countries will suffer for decades

Total US cases quadruple in one week – Today’s coronavirus updates

How blockchain can manage the future electricity grid

The EU threatens to impose extra import duties on Chinese products

CLIMATE CHANGE FOCUS: The fruits of sustainability and decent work

Venezuelan crisis: MEPs reaffirm their support for Juan Guaidó

Brexit: European Commission recommends the European Council (Article 50) to endorse the agreement reached on the revised Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland and revised Political Declaration

Banks must take bold action to fight climate change. This is how they can do it

The Collapse of the Brazilian Health Care System

UN working to prevent attacks on civilians in eastern DR Congo

Adjust UN force in Abyei to current realities, peacekeeping chief urges Security Council

Sweden has a plan to end all traffic accident deaths

The zero that every investment portfolio needs

UN ‘prioritizing needs’, ramping up aid, as Hurricane Dorian continues to batter the Bahamas

Chatterbox Rome Declaration cannot save the EU; Germany has to pay more to do that

4 fixes for equipment supply chains before the next COVID-19 waves hit

IMF: The global economy keeps growing except Eurozone

Climate finance for developing countries reached USD 71 billion in 2017

The Mobile World Congress in Shanghai will take place on 27-29 June 2018

Women in leadership: closing the gender gap in medicine

Why trust and technology go hand-in-hand

Growing a future free of terrorism: UN News special report from Cameroon

The world needs carbon-neutral flying. Here’s how to bring it one step closer

Economic sentiment and business climate stagnate in miserable euro area

Water pollution is killing millions of Indians. Here’s how technology and reliable data can change that

The two big uncertainties shaping our future

‘Water-forecasting’ and fish farms fed on waste: how innovation is driving the blue economy

Blockchain is facing a backlash. Can it survive?

Creating zero-emission aviation with hydrogen and electric power

COVID-19: Commission creates first ever rescEU stockpile of medical equipment

Taxation: Commission refers Poland to Court for failing to remove certain tax exemptions on the use of energy products by highly polluting businesses

A new roadmap for corporate climate governance

It’s time to stop talking about ethics in AI and start doing it

These countries are driving global demand for coal

Protecting workers from biological agents: how to classify SARS-CoV-2

Don’t let smoking steal life’s breathtaking moments, urges UN health agency

Major humanitarian hub in north-east Nigeria burned in attack

From diamonds to recycling: how blockchain can drive responsible and ethical businesses

Migration Crisis: how to open the borders and make way for the uprooted

UN investigates systematic sexual violence across South Sudan

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s