Japan has made a new law. Increased speed limits now say we can all drive up to 200 km per hour on any street. Furthermore, if you can afford to buy a Ferrari, there is no speed limit, you can drive as fast as you want, and its legal.

Toko Shirakawa’s opinion in piece in the Feb. 8 edition (“Challenges to the Japanese style of work“). The article promotes the new “cap on overtime hours” (maximum 200 km per hour) and the “highly professional” work system (if you are highly paid then drive as fast as you want).

It is not surprising that Shirakawa writes in favor of these ridiculous rules as she is a member of the Cabinet Office panel that introduced them.

Productivity, the main objective of work, is negatively correlated with average work hours. It’s very easy to understand why. Consider how many trees per hour a lumberjack can cut down if he works as hard as he can for eight hours per day and then how many trees per hour if he has a 16-hour day? Luxembourg has the highest productivity of all OECD countries and the lowest working hours, just 29 hours per week.

Common sense tells us that it is not how long you work but how productive you are when you work that is important.

Japan’s answer to its current dilemma is twofold. Limit total work hours for all workers to a reasonable level of 40 to 50 hours per week, including overtime. Educate from a very early age how to work more efficiently, to think for yourself, to dare to cause change, to question historical praxis and authority.

Will Japan need more workers then? Yes, and the most efficient, sensible, workers are female. Empower women, pay them and respect them as equals, allow them to be both mothers (if they choose) and employees, not only without discrimination but with support, and you have your answer.


The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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