Thursday, August 05, 2021

perspective

How to expand the benefits of Premium Friday?


Making weekends more relaxing and enabling people to enjoy a little extravagance. Will “special Fridays” happen?

653

View

Today marks the start of the Premium Friday initiative to boost spending by encouraging employees to leave work early on the last Friday of every month. Employees are encouraged to finish work at 3pm and use this free time to go shopping or take part in leisure activities. This is a new attempt to stimulate consumption and reform work styles through joint efforts by the public and private sectors.
More than 3,500 companies and organizations are supporting the Premium Friday initiative. Restaurants, department stores, travel agencies and other companies battling to capture a slice of the “after 3 o’clock” sales are rolling out a raft of new products and services.
Even Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, “I want to devise ways for as many government employees as possible to enjoy the extra time.” As exemplified by the decision to push back Friday’s scheduled passage of the fiscal 2017 budget bill through the House of Representatives to next week, a feeling of support for the initiative is growing in the public and private sectors.
The problem will be how to make Premium Friday put down deep roots. There are many companies supporting the initiative but forgoing actual steps for workers to leave the office early. There is a sense that although a flute is being played, not everyone will dance to the music.
Doing overtime is routine, so for many workers there is no way they can go home at 3 p.m. Businesses are busy at the end of the month, so it will be difficult for even workers of large companies to finish early on those Fridays. This is even more of a problem for small and midsize companies, which must struggle with a very limited number of employees. Wages of temp workers, paid by the hour, will decline.
Those are some of the complaints being made about Premium Friday.
If companies make no effort to implement this long-awaited initiative, it will not get off the ground.
Even if it is impossible for every worker at a company to halt work at 3 o’clock, employees could bring other days into the mix and swap the days on which they leave early. Companies could let workers use paid leave when they are away for less than half a day. Companies will need to change their mentality and devise flexible ways to work and take time off.
Some observers also are sceptical about whether Premium Friday will stimulate consumption. Many people who finish work early will spend this time at home, and even if consumption is boosted on Fridays, it will eat into demand on Saturdays and Sundays.
Indeed, it is unlikely that pushing workers out the door early once a month will dramatically improve consumer spending, which has been soft for so long.
Previous policies intended to spark consumption, such as promotion coupons for jump-starting regional economies and the eco-point system for promoting energy-efficient appliances, were pork-barrelling with limited impact. Compared with these efforts, Premium Friday – which harnesses the wisdom of the private sector – could have significant potential for generating new consumer behavior over the long term.
Married couples, families and friends could go out for meals, go shopping or indulge in fun activities such as watching movies, going to concerts and attending art events on the way home from work. They also could go on short trips to regional areas and overseas. Premium Friday will be meaningful if it becomes a chance for people to review their lifestyles and how they work.
It took a long time to establish the two-day weekend system, which is now considered absolutely normal. Various problems with Premium Friday should be ironed out, and the initiative expanded so more people can benefit.

Published : February 26, 2017

By : The Yomiuri Shimbun Asia News Network Tokyo