Manami Chiba’s letter “Shorter hours good for work and people” in the Dec. 22 edition sounds like an affirmative argument I heard late last month at an event that is perhaps the epitome of English education in this nation — the All-Japan High School English Debate Tournament.

Over 350 students from 64 schools participated in the 14th annual tournament. The proposition debated was “The Japanese government should limit the weekly maximum average working hours, including overtime, to 48 hours.” Many affirmative sides offered the same points of contention that appear in Chiba’s letter and the article it cites: “Four-day workweek boosted productivity by 40%, Microsoft Japan experiment shows.”

One especially interesting facet of the article that was neither mentioned in the Chiba letter nor did I hear in any of the eight debates I observed as either judge or audience participant has to do with environmental conservation.

According to the article, there was 23.1 percent less electricity consumed and 58.7 percent less paper used in printing and copying during the trial four-day workweek period compared to the same time period last year. This would have provided further evidence to strengthen the debating students’ affirmative argument in favor of the government limiting weekly working hours, including overtime, to 48.

Additionally, the tremendous amounts of electricity and resources that go into producing and maintaining printers and copy machines would also decrease. Limiting working hours would be a positive step forward in the right direction. Not only would people’s health improve and workplace productivity increase, great environmental strides forward would be made. It is imperative that the Japanese government and corporations not only take note, but act.


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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