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Friday, February 24, 2017

Premium Friday Launches Today


Premium Friday starts all over Japan today. Premium Friday is a government-sponsored campaign that is the latest move in an ongoing effort to get Japanese people spending more money on consumables.

The whole point of the economic strategy conceived by the current LDP government, styled "Abenomics" after prime minister, Shinzo Abe, is to wean Japan off its traditional dependency on exports and create an economy less dependent on the exigencies of foreign demand and exchange rates, and more firmly bolstered by a thriving domestic market.

So, from here on in, every last Friday of the month is Premium Friday, which means that companies are being encouraged to let employees go home early - from about 3pm - and give them the chance to hang out  in a coffee shop surfing the web or reading manga, go to pachinko, go see a movie, art exhibition or practice their golf shots.

A convenience store in Tokyo offering specials for Premium Friday.
A convenience store in Kuramae, Tokyo, offering Premium Friday specials.

Or, as the official Premium Friday website puts it:
On the last Friday of the month, how about leaving work a little early and enjoy just that much fuller a weekend?
Stop work earlier than usual and take up a challenge you can't normally take up, talk to friends or family members you hardly ever get to meet, go for a walk on the bright, sunny street, or have a feel-good time playing sport with colleagues. Have a leisurely dinner that evening, or take the 2.5 days to travel to somewhere a little far away.
Yes, a rich, varied time begins all over Japan. Premium Friday begins! You, too, should enjoy some of that rich variety on the last Friday of each month.
However, the most crucial piece in the puzzle - the willingness of bosses to play along in losing all those man- and woman-hours every month - is by no means guaranteed. Furthermore, even if Premium Friday does catch on among companies, it is clearly not meant to extend to employees who work for the kinds of places that Premium Fridayers are being encouraged to go to: hotels, cafes, convenience stores, bus stations, railway stations, sport facilities, fitness centers - i.e., workplaces where pay is poor and which employ lots of so-called "part-time" staff (who nevertheless typically work hours every bit as long as full-time employees.).

None of my immediate family members or friends are getting to go home early today, so it will take at least half a year to gauge how effective this commendable "chill-and-spend" Premium Friday campaign is going to be.

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