Article 38 of the Labor Standards Law should be revised to forcibly cure the nation’s workaholism by obliging all businesses to make workers take paid holidays, a policy study group of the Democratic Party of Japan said Thursday. The average Japanese worker takes only about half of the paid holidays he or she is eligible to take. This increases the total working hours while lowering the quality of life, the policy group argued. According to the Labor Ministry, the average worker received 17.5 paid holidays in fiscal 1998 — but used just over half that number. The Labor Standards Law currently obliges all companies to “grant” a minimum of 10 paid holidays plus certain additional holidays up to a total of 20 days according to seniority. The policy group, headed by DPJ Lower House member Tatsuo Kawabata, proposed replacing the word “grant” with “make (workers) take” the minimum number of holidays they are eligible for in a bid to boost the economy in the recession. If their proposal is carried out, it would push up the gross domestic product by 0.5 percent annually, the group reckoned. “If now you are given 100,000 yen, you may be at a loss as to how to spend it. But if you are given two weeks holidays, you’d surely be happy and would definitely spend a lot of money,” Kawabata told reporters at the Diet. Economic growth of 0.5 percent is the target that the Cabinet of Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi is now desperately trying to achieve by spending trillions of yen for huge pump-priming measures, they pointed out. The mandatory increase in paid holidays, however, would also increase financial burdens on businesses, particularly small ones. The group also admitted that some transition measures, such as a moratorium on holiday-taking, would be necessary.

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