Japanese pay least attention to vacation days: survey

Kyodo, Staff Report

An online survey has shown that Japanese, more than any other workers canvassed globally, appear to pay the least attention to vacation days owed, with over half unable to cite their annual paid leave entitlement.

The survey last October by the online travel agency Expedia Inc. said 53 percent of Japanese do not know how much annual leave they can take, the highest among any of the 26 countries and regions included in the study.

The Netherlands ranked second at 38 percent, followed by Norway at 28 percent. The result seems to confirm the stereotypical image of the “Japanese workaholic.”

In the survey, 9,273 workers 18 and older responded.

Around 18 percent of Japanese said they feel guilty taking paid leave, which also ranked at the top of the poll, followed by the United States at 10 percent.

Japanese cited “a lack of staff” as a reason for not taking owed holidays, suggesting they worry about delays in meeting their responsibilities and inconveniencing colleagues.

The survey also said about 13 percent of Japanese “cannot get work out of their minds” while on holiday — the highest ratio among all countries and regions surveyed.

Also, for the second consecutive year, the study said Japanese were the world’s second most vacation-deprived workers, with 40 percent of paid holidays going unused. South Koreans came in first at 60 percent.

Only 39 percent of Japanese respondents said they wanted more holidays.

While 79 percent of workers globally said they believe there is a “great deal or a fair amount” of correlation between vacations and overall happiness, only 52 percent of Japanese agreed a balanced work-life schedule is important— the lowest of all the countries and areas surveyed.

As many as 58 percent of Japanese said they spent paid holidays on short-term vacations.

  • Paul Johnny Lynn

    To me this is a sad indictment of the Japanese system, not something worthy of praise. It’s usually reported in the vein of “Japanese workaholics”, but are they really? Do they really want to spend all their time at work? Or, have they been conditioned over the last few decades to think that way? How many people sleep on the train, complain of being tired, have NO hobby to speak of? It’s my opinion that a collusion of business and government have played upon the traditional “shame culture” of Japan to create a pliant workforce. One that tells itself it wants to work, and must work itself even to the point of death, rather than face the shame of doing something so “selfish” as taking a holiday. A rested worker is a happy worker, a productive worker. If I haven’t had enough sleep or rest, I’m much less likely to smile at a customer so they are less likely to be happy and spend their money, simple.

    • KenjiAd

      I only know American and Chinese workers for comparison, but I don’t have an impression that Japanese workers are particularly hard-working.

      It’s just the way Japanese workers typically work is different. I admire some of it, and not others.

      I admire the way Japanese work, for example, in the area of punctuality and strict adherence to established protocols. They simply follow rules. I feel that Japanese employees are, in general, the easiest for employers to herd (Chinese are the most difficult, no offense :-))

      But I feel that some Japanese employees are intellectually lazy. This is the flip side of above – blindly following orders. They work longer, for sure, but many of them are just stretching the time.

      • Paul Johnny Lynn

        My only experiences are in the English teaching section, though friends in other sectors tell me the oft-told tales are indeed true..very long hours spent doing very little. I’ve found two different attitudes in regards to rules though, on the one hand there are people who do indeed follow the rules..to the letter, but to such a point that they’re incapable of adapting to a situation that doesn’t fit those sometimes tight definitions. There’s also a fetish about strictly observing unimportant minutiae (such as the colour of your socks!) and, what I consider, a disproportionate reaction when they’re ignored. On the other hand, I’ve often found people who’ve been at their job a long time completely ignore the rules, to the point of criminal endangering. I once talked to a man who said “Following the rules is for freshmen.” He made brakes for a company I won’t name which a few years later had problems with failing brakes, and wheels coming off their buses and trucks, resulting in fatalities. So my thoughts are, as with so many things, Japan has 2 polar opposites, nothing in between.

      • Winton Yuichiro White

        Very true. In addition to being intellectually lazy, in turn, affects
        the work efficiency. I’ve found many Japanese companies’ work ethics to
        be extremely inefficient.


    JAPANESE ARE the most nationalists/ patriotic citizens on planet earth. Japan miracle is world famous. They will do anything for their country. They are conditioned to do so. They do not take leaves even if they do they feel guilty. JAPAN/SWEDEN are the countries which should emulated by the rest of the globe.