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'Rocky' joins fight against Japanese overwork

Friday, February 24, 2017 - 01:56

From the ''Rocky'' theme to cash handouts and early ''Premium Friday'' finishes, a small but growing number of companies are getting creative with the ways they're getting employees out the door early in a new campaign against Japan's culture of workaholism. David Pollard reports.

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BROADCAST AND DIGITAL RESTRICTIONS~**Broadcasters: PART NO ACCESS JAPAN/PART CNN & CNNI, BBC WORLD, NBC, CNBC MUST ON-SCREEN COURTESY 'TV TOKYO' IF PICTURES TO BE SHOWN ON CABLE, COMMUNICATIONS SATELLITE IN JAPAN. Digital: NO ACCESS JAPANESE WEBSITES. It's three o'clock, it's Premium Friday. For the the boss of Sunny Side Up PR in Tokyo, this is something of a first: he's telling his staff to leave for the day. And if that's not enough, there's a cash handout to persuade them to go. In a Japan where death by overwork has its own word - 'karoshi' - it's welcome. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) 23-YEAR-OLD EMPLOYEE OF SUNNY SIDE UP, KANA ISHII, SAYING: "I think the way I work will change from now." Backing for this new Premium Friday campaign against overwork comes from the top. Karoshi can happen when workers work more than 80 hours of overtime a month. As for the dangers of not changing ... Yukimi Takahasi's daughter Matsuri - a worker at Japan's largest advertising firm Dentsu - leapt to her death in December - after clocking over one hundred hours of overtime in just one month. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) MOTHER OF FORMER DENTSU EMPLOYEE MATSURI TAKAHASHI, YUKIMI TAKAHASHI, SAYING: "My daughter is a symbol of the harassment of workers in Japan." Now, the government keen not only to save workers - but also to boost the country's output. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR EMERITUS AT HITOTSUBASHI UNIVERSITY, YOKO ISHIKURA, SAYING: "People cannot work long, long hours, and what we're interested in is the productivity improvement and innovation, and long work hours do not help either one of the two." As Japan's labour pools shrinks with its population, more women might work if hours were shorter. More leisure time could also mean more babies. But changing attitudes could itself be hard work. One estimate suggests only six and half per cent of workers will take part in the campaign. Though some firms - like Mitsui - aren't giving up easily. The theme tune from the Rocky boxing movies their signal to go - before overwork can deliver a knock-out blow.

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'Rocky' joins fight against Japanese overwork

Friday, February 24, 2017 - 01:56