Japan has a reputation for being a highly productive, imaginative, and sophisticated nation that has a flair for producing one technological marvel after another and releasing hip gadgets regularly.

Earlier this year, Masako Mori, a Japanese legislator, and adviser to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, issued a dire warning: “The country will disappear” if the issue of declining birthrates is not resolved. However, the head of the Japanese corporation Itochu Corp’s unconventional strategy could have prevented the country from having to face the dire possibility.

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image credit: nippon

Due to the enormous amount of labor that ordinary Japanese person puts in, they quickly burn out and have little time left over for their personal life and families. As a result, the country has seen a booming economy and has been in the headlines.

A case worth looking into

The Japanese work ethic frequently entails long days at the workplace followed by nights spent eating and drinking with coworkers, which has made starting a family difficult, particularly for female employees. As a result, many women stop working after giving birth to focus on raising their children.

This is where Masahiro Okafuji’s strategy for Itochu Corp. comes into play. According to a Bloomberg article, Okafuji prioritized increasing productivity when he became the company’s CEO in 2010 so that the Japan-based business could compete with larger rivals.

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image credit: japantimes

Contrary to popular assumption, improved productivity in this instance was not associated with working long hours at the office. In truth, the CEO of the Japanese corporation forbade office work beyond 8:00 p.m. (local time) and prohibited overtime, save in a few exceptional circumstances.

Additionally, Itochu permitted staff to work from home two days each week following the epidemic. The Japan-based firm went a step further last year and changed its working hours from eight to six, allowing employees to leave as early as three o’clock in the afternoon (local time). 

Japan’s birth rate is declining

The Japanese government raised the alarm earlier this year as a result of the twin issues of a low birth rate and an aging population. 

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image credit: statista

Estimates indicate that the nation’s birthrate fell below 800,000 in 2022; forecasts had anticipated this development, but it came around eight years too soon.

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Falling birth rates are alarming and warranted so in many nations. A sizable portion of the population is above the age of 50 or 60. It is crucial that the youthful population, who are in their 20s and early 30s, has plenty of time and chances to socialize, get married, and contribute to production in the personal, human sphere if the system is to get new blood.

Companies must become more proactive in implementing work flexibility since it will help both them and the family life of their workers.