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Japan's Osaka to implement 'compulsive off-work' by turning down computers automatically

Xinhua | Updated: 2019-12-03 10:26

TOKYO -- Japan's Osaka has recently decided to implement a "compulsive off-work" system among civil servants by shutting down computers automatically, a move which has triggered heated discussion online.

Some netizens said they hope their boss can see this, while some pointed out that work will not be "turned down" though the computers did.

Osaka prefecture will introduce a forced shutdown system on the computers of some 7,600 non-management staff in the public sector, including Osaka police and public schools, in the winter of 2020 in an effort to reduce overtime, governor Hirohumi Yoshimura said Friday.

After introducing the system, a warning will pop up in computers at 6:00 p.m., saying "Please finish work quickly and shut down the computer." The computers will be automatically turned down after 30 minutes. If an employee has to work overtime, he or she needs to submit an application for overtime at around 4:30 p.m.

Only in exceptional circumstances, such as natural disasters and other emergencies, will the government remove the mandatory shutdown function. "We expect you to work efficiently and give full play to your abilities," Yoshimura said to the civil servants.

According to local media reports, employees in Osaka prefecture work about 1 million hours of overtime each year, with a total overtime pay of about 3 billion yen (27 million U.S. dollars). Meanwhile, such "forced off-duty" seems to be saving a lot of operating capital, far more than the 50 million yen (4.6 billion dollars) needed to implement the new system.

The Osaka government's decision to introduce the mandatory shutdown system aims at cutting government spending and promoting the implementation of the reform bill related to work style.

On April 1, 2019, Japan began phased implementation of the law on labor reform related to work style, in which overtime caught high attention. According to the bill, employees' overtime hours are "in principle 45 hours per month and 360 hours per year." In case of busy periods, it shall not exceed 100 hours in a single month or 720 hours in a whole year, and companies that violate the rules will be punished.

In fact, Osaka has been making changes to reduce overtime, such as introducing artificial intelligence to automatically generate meeting notes. But since August, with typhoons and other natural disasters, the overtime personnel began to increase, prompting Osaka prefecture to introduce the "forced shutdown" system as it hopes to see the reform through.

However, the reform has not received positive results among the workers.

A specialist clinic run by the Japanese medical society for helping seniors' old age conducted a survey among 500 men aged 20 to 50 on their working hours in Tokyo and Osaka.

The results showed that after the implementation of the reform act, 53.8 percent of the respondents felt that their work was not as easy as before, and 50 percent felt that work pressure increased, especially among men aged 30 to 40.

Now with Osaka's mandatory off-work system, many Japanese netizens did not seem to buy the government's "kindness" and expressed their discontent on the comment section of Kyodo News

"This only increases the time to hand in the form, and the work that can not be completed within the time limit has to be taken home," a user named "cat" commented.

"Instead of forcing employees to shut down their computers, it would be better to change the tedious work processes, such as making the paperwork digital which requires the team leader, section chief, deputy director and director to stamp and sign one by one, or reducing some boring regular meetings," a netizen called "Xen" said.

"Before the governor's implementation of the order, do a survey on the workload and quality of work first and sign an agreement to cut overtime, otherwise shutting down computer is just 'nominal,'" said user "Hir."

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