On Monday (Jul 24) Japanese government launched a national exercise that aims to encourage tens of thousands of commuters to work remotely from home. The campaign is initiated in a bid to ease rail and road congestion before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, as well as reforming the country’s workaholic culture.
Statistics show that about a quarter of Japan population of 127 million live in Tokyo and surrounding prefectures. Owing to this number, it becomes crucial for the overfilled megalopolis to unravel rush-hour crowds in order to accommodate tourists for the Olympics, Channel News Asia reports.
The internal affairs ministry stated that the public-private Telework Day involved about 60,000 workers from more than 900 companies, organisations and government offices. By working from home, these employees will skip their usual habit of commuting in notoriously packed trains and other public transportation, or driving personal cars to the office.
While the exact figures of participants by region is unknown, the ministry believed that most of those involved in the program are in Tokyo.
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The idea of the campaign followed a teleworking effort during 2012 London Olympics. Japan will repeat the exercise on the same date over the next two years in the run-up until the opening of the Summer Games on July 24, 2020.
The plan also becomes part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to reconstruct Japan’s infamous working culture. Known with its workaholic tradition, Japanese workers (mostly male ones) are routinely expected to spend long hours in the office, leaving little time with their families and personal matters.
In a bid to tackle “karoshi“, or death from overwork, earlier this year the government unveiled its first-ever initiative to limit overtime hours for workers. Further, the government hopes that when the Olympics Games are over, more people will continue telecommute as a lasting legacy.
A government official in charge of the campaign stated that teleworking can be a good solution to heavy traffic congestion in the Tokyo metropolitan area.
“Some people may say they felt some effect (on reducing congestion) this morning, while others say they felt no difference.
“This is a small start but we’d like it to trigger companies as well as workers to start thinking about a different work style,” he told AFP.
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