Adjusted Premium Friday: Government eyes moving up campaign aimed at boosting fun and spending

by

Staff Writer

“Premium Friday” may not have been a premium experience for many people after all.

The government will consider moving the monthly drive, in which workers are encouraged to leave the office early on the last Friday of the month, to a different date, possibly at the beginning of the month, industry minister Hiroshige Seko said Tuesday.

The campaign started with fanfare in February, aiming to encourage workers to enjoy life after work and get them to splurge on dining and shopping. It was set on the last Friday of the month because many companies pay salaries on the 25th.

But observers have questioned the timing of the initiative. The end of the month can be a particularly busy time for many company employees, as they try to achieve monthly sales targets and close books.

This coming Friday — the eighth Premium Friday — will probably turn out to be a less than ideal day for many, especially accountants and bookkeepers, as they scramble to close their books for the first half of the business year.

“We have listened to various opinions,” Seko told a news conference Tuesday morning. He noted that some people have called for a more flexible Premium Friday system where workers are allowed to leave early on other Fridays of the month while others have argued the date should be uniformly moved to the first Friday of the month.

“We will listen to various views both from the viewpoint of boosting consumer spending and achieving work-style reform, and review the campaign if necessary,” he said.

Only a small number of companies have managed to establish the practice of workers departing early, while department stores and amusement facilities are said to be running out of ideas to attract visitors on the designated Fridays.

Earlier this month, Sadayuki Sakakibara, chairman of the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), suggested a review.

“We need to examine the drive now that half a year has passed,” he told a news conference on Sept. 11. “While it is still being promoted in Tokyo and some other cities, it is not as widespread in some (rural) areas.”