In the current economic downturn, it isn’t surprising to see workers avoiding vacations. Many need the money, and may even be unsure of whether or not they will have a job the next day. But, if they spend all their time working and saving their money, and not spending it, this creates a problem. In Japan, the issue has actually taken a noticeable toll on the economy. Japanese workaholics, or sarariman, often work late nights and stash away their money. Japan, then, needs to find a way to get Japanese households spending their $8 trillion in savings.
How would they do this? Surprisingly, the solution is something many workers in other countries would be eager to do: take a vacation! A global survey conducted by Expedia found that nearly 92% of Japanese workers don’t take all of their allotted vacation time, in comparison to 24% in the U.S., 22% in Germany, and 21% in the United Kingdom. The government of Japan, therefore, is considering penalizing companies whose employees don’t take a vacation.
By penalizing companies, they would be forced to cut back on their work load, and the workers would be forced to take vacations, which could potentially lead to them going out and spending their money, thus stimulating the economy. However, it is uncertain whether or not the majority of the Japanese workforce knows how to enjoy their vacations. "There are lots of people here who live to work and wouldn't know how to enjoy more vacations," says Toshihiro Nagahama, senior economist at private think tank Dai-ichi Life Research Institute. Furthermore, it’s a possibility that the workers would simply use their vacation time to get more work done. It’s a tricky situation, but with Japan’s debt last year being 173% of the GDP, it is imperative that Japan gets its citizens spending their money to stimulate the economy, rather than having the government do so.
Perhaps Japan should look into improving its entertainment infrastructure, so that its workers are more encouraged to take a vacation.