Japanese only take average of 8 days paid vacation a year

A recent survey by Expedia.com revealed that Japanese take only an average of 8 days paid vacation a year, the lowest among the countries surveyed, while France topped the list with 34 days, followed by Italy and Spain with 27 paid days off annually.  Wow, that’s quite a gap!  Do you take all your entitled vacation annually?

Two related stories in The Mainichi Daily News describes Japan’s overwork ethic and tries to explain the causes of overtime work in Japan.

I agree with novelist Kaoru Takamura’s description of the problem in the second article:

“… although Japanese companies have a command structure, there is no clear system that distributes “authority and responsibility” within a company. The lines demarcating an individual’s authority are unclear, which means that the limits of responsibility are also unclear. Employees are never clearly instructed about their own authority and responsibility.

It seems to me that the root of the problem of excessive work habits in Japan lies here. In an organization where the authority-responsibility structure is unclear, employees are unable to make their own decisions and must constantly refer to their superiors. But because these superiors are also unclear about their own authority, they can’t make responsible decisions. Problems just get shuffled around and everyone ends up working longer hours.

Because individual authority and responsibility are left unclear, the criteria for evaluating an employee’s work performance are also unclear. In a situation where it’s unclear what you need to merit praise, it’s impossible for employees to work efficiently. An “all for one and one for all” mentality becomes the focus.”

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