A major Japanese trading company has relaxed its rules to allow employees to pursue side careers, such as being a YouTuber or an artist, in hope of retaining younger workers who are demanding more flexible work arrangements.

Mitsui lifted its ban on side jobs and will now let employees earn money elsewhere, a spokesperson for Japan’s third-largest trading house said.

The move reflects a drive among companies to adopt more flexible working conditions in order to woo younger workers amid a population decline, particularly since the pandemic.

"After implementing policies on remote work and flexible work hours, we believed the time was right to do even more, so employees can pursue both career development and new working styles,” the company said in a statement. Side jobs could include coaching, working on a tech startup or becoming a YouTuber or an artist, it said.

Mitsui employees earn around ¥14.8 million ($114,000) a year on average, according to its most recent annual report.

Some Japanese firms like carmaker Nissan Motor and airline ANA Holdings already allow side jobs.

Trading houses, including conglomerates like Mitsubishi and Sumitomo, hold an outsized influence in Japan due to their diversified business interests spanning multiple sectors like commodities and consumer products. They have also attracted foreign investors, with Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway owning a 6.6% stake in Mitsui.

The companies are favorites among university graduates due to their high salaries and job security. They have also been launchpads for some successful businessmen including Takeshi Niinami, a former employee at Mitsubishi who is currently the president of alcohol giant Suntory Holdings.