Tokyo Notes

Forced to Take a Holiday?

Getting workers to take holidays they’re entitled to is proving a bit of a challenge.

The government has again been talking about the need for hardworking Japanese to take more holidays.

Following talk of introducing ‘five-day’ holiday blocks earlier this month, the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry announced a guideline on Friday calling on companies to actually check on how much vacation their staff are taking and to set goals for how many days they actually use.

Not taking all the leave you are contractually entitled to? This might sound not just incredible but even foolhardy to those outside Japan, especially Europeans. And we’re not just talking a day here or a day there. According to government statistics reported by the Kyodo News Agency, workers in Japan took only 8.5 days of the 18 days vacation they were entitled to in 2008. The government’s ambitious goal for 2012 is to have employees take 60 percent of their holiday…

The gap between holiday entitlement and holiday reality is another indicator of how some things here don’t quite follow the official description (or prescription).