5-speed listening (Working Hours - Level 5)

Japan attempts to ease working hours






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Japan is backing an initiative to ease the pressure on workers and at the same time boost consumer spending. The measure is called "Premium Friday". Japan's government said workers would be encouraged to leave work earlier on the last Friday of each month to relax and/or go shopping. Around 130 companies across Japan are participating, including many major employers. Doubters are unsure whether the scheme will succeed or not because of the legendary workaholic nature of Japanese workers. A spokesman told reporters: "It will take time for Premium Friday to take root."

Premium Friday was partly prompted by the suicide of a man who was continually told to work excessive overtime at an ad agency. A court said the suicide was "death by overwork". It stressed the need to address the problem of overworking. Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promoted the campaign by leaving the office early for a meditation session at 3:30 p.m. The government said it was essential for both the government and the private sector to make workers feel comfortable in leaving early. However, many workers said they would just have to work on Saturdays to finish their work.

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