National

Civil servants to be offered earlier summertime shifts

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

Central government workers will be encouraged to start work earlier this summer so they can spend more time with their families in the evening, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Friday.

At a Cabinet meeting earlier in the day, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told his ministers to promote campaigns to get private-sector firms and local governments to adopt a morning shift or flextime system for the summer. The government will set an example by introducing one itself, Suga quoted him as saying.

The Cabinet will “start working on lifestyle reforms to allow people to spend (more) time with families in summer,” he said.

A senior Cabinet Office official said the government might move the start of the working day forward by one or two hours in July and August and may introduce a summer flextime system for civil servants.

Skeptics are likely to question the practicality of the plan. Bureaucrats are notorious for working long hours without overtime, and giving them the option of coming in early might exacerbate the situation.

In the private sector, workers often face indirect pressure from superiors and co-workers to work into the evening. The tendency to sacrifice one’s private time for work has been common in Japan for decades.

When asked if the government was considering shifting the clocks to adopt daylight saving time, Suga said Japan’s length would probably make that impractical.

“Our national land extends widely from Hokkaido to Okinawa . . . Sunrise in Kyushu and Okinawa is (relatively) late, so there might be few merits from having ‘summer time’ ” in those areas, Suga said.

“So for now, we have to study rather cautiously if we should uniformly change the standard time of our country.”

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