Following its "work-style reform," the Japanese government now reportedly aims to promote "vacation-style reform." A public-private joint council will be set up to oversee the project soon. We welcome the idea if it is a comprehensive policy to raise the percentage of annual leave actually taken among workers in Japan, which is extremely low compared to other developed nations.
However, if this is simply another government-backed measure to promote spending and tourism, it will not lead to improvements in the percentage of paid days off taken by workers, which should be the goal of vacation-style reform.
The centerpiece of this new initiative is the "kids week" program that the government will launch in fiscal 2018.
Under the kids week holiday plan, each municipality takes a few days from school summer vacations and assigns them to weekdays of another month, creating a long vacation period for school children outside summer vacations. The government argues that if parents take days off from work to match their children's "kids week" holiday, it will make it easier for the adults to secure vacations.
The kids week program was initially aimed at "nurturing rich spirits and human qualities among children by increasing the time they spend with adults," according to the government's education rebuilding council. The government has since conveniently added efforts to improve the percentage of annual leave that workers take and tourism promotion to the kids week holiday program.
In the government's core economic policy, the kids week program is mentioned under "vitalizing tourism and tour spending" as a means to "stimulate new demand." This makes one suspect that the main motive behind the new holiday program is to boost tourism in Japan.
Growth in tourism demand is fine in itself. The fact remains, however, that the number of people who have to work over weekends and holidays as well as during the night is increasing due to the industrialization of services.
Furthermore, there seems to be no end to labor shortages and the problem is becoming more serious. Isn't it a stretch to try to significantly improve the percentage of annual leave workers take while stimulating spending and tourism demand, which require labor?
It is a worker's right to take paid leave. If this right is not guaranteed, the reason needs to be clarified.
Some of the top reasons why workers are unable to take days off are labor shortages and low wages. Even if they want to take time off from work, replacements cannot be found. Some single parents have no choice but to work multiple part-time jobs to support their children. Is it realistic to call for such people to use their paid leave and go out on vacations?
Taking leave from work has nothing to do with whether a worker has a child in the first place. What people require from the government are efforts to improve labor shortages and raise wages among low- and mid-income earners, so that everyone can take paid days off without concerns. Interfering in details such as when workers should take time off from work, how they should spend their days off, and with whom they should spend their time comes across as excessive intervention in people's lives.