Business

Extended telework and school closures in Japan worry firms and parents

JIJI

Businesses are facing difficulty due to prolonged teleworking periods amid the spreading coronavirus outbreak, with such periods expected to continue longer due partly to an extended school shutdown in Tokyo.

Meanwhile, parents are worried that extended school closures may deprive students of their right to learn and that their academic performance may deteriorate.

Honda Motor Co. will extend its teleworking period for workers in Tokyo to April 12.

Mazda Motor Corp. plans to continue its teleworking period for Tokyo workers for an unspecified period, while Sony Corp.’s program will be kept in place until the end of April.

Trading house Mitsubishi Corp. has maintained a teleworking program for over a month.

Various problems have been discussed since the introduction of teleworking programs.

“We were pressed to introduce teleworking rapidly, and problems occurred” in terms of computer systems and security, said Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda, head of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.

Some problems have been resolved thanks to improvement in communication systems, but others remain largely unattended.

“It’s difficult to conduct business negotiations via video-conference from home,” a worker of Mitsubishi Chemical Corp. said.

“We can’t conduct face-to-face training for newly employed workers” at the start of the new fiscal year, an official of a major trading house said.

Sales outlets continue to consider how to deal with teleworking, as it is difficult for sales representatives to work from home.

MUFG Bank has established a paid leave system for over-the-counter service workers and sales personnel at its branches.

The new system, a temporary measure available until April 30, could be extended depending on school shutdown periods.

The education board of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government decided Wednesday to extend the closures of metropolitan government-run high schools until May 6.

Elementary and junior high schools operated by municipalities in the capital are not covered by the decision. But the board plans to ask municipal education boards to follow suit, sources said.

The prefectural government of Osaka also decided to extend high school closures until May 6.

“If the shutdown is prolonged further, children could be deprived of their rights to learn,” said a 34-year-old architect, who was playing with his two sons at a park in Tokyo’s Koto Ward.

“Kids who attend cram schools are probably be OK, but my kids don’t, so I’m worried about a possible disparity,” he said.

A 36-year-old single mother of four children living in the capital’s Sumida Ward said she is afraid that an extension may leave children behind academically.

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