Less than 50% of workers in Japan receive full payment for overtime: survey


As the world continues to change, countries like China have been experiencing overall improvements to their quality of life while traditionally more developed countries seem to be slipping in terms of job security and benefits.

According to a yearly study conducted by labor research groups and think tanks, only 46.9% of workers in Japan received their overtime in full in 2011. This is a significant 8.9% lower from just a year before.

The survey was conducted over the Internet, gathering responses from 2,000 private sector workers aged 20 to 64 in areas around Tokyo and Osaka. Of the people asked, just under half responded that they “have received their overtime pay in full.”

Among the other half, 6.3% claimed they received no overtime pay at all. Another 29% of people surveyed were completely in the dark whether they receive overtime or not. The remaining 17.8% reported receiving fractions of pay for their overtime worked.

So why aren’t they getting paid?

When asked, a third of the people who don’t receive full payment simply say they never report the 21.3 on average hours worked per month. The top two reasons for not reporting overtime were a company imposed limit on overtime hours (24.2%) and a work environment that discourages reporting overtime hours (35.3%).

Considering the results, the researchers conclude “it is important that both employers and employee be told that not paying for overtime work is against the law.”

However, with a stagnant economy causing companies to cut staff, the remaining workers have burn the candle at both ends picking up the slack of lost coworkers and proving their own value to the shrinking organization.

They are often subjected to overtime limits but unable to handle the workload (unofficially) demanded of them in that time. In such cases they must make up the work at home on weekends for free.

Source: Mainichi


  • 10


    I would disagree with this study ... and this is why ...

    I work for a Japanese company, and everyday I go to my office, and start work and 9 and leave at 6. In that time I do all my work, and hence, no over time is needed.

    My coworkers (at least 4 pop to mind when I think of this, and in reality its probably many more) come on time, fanny around at their desks, check their emails, social networking sites, gossip to each other, make numerous cups of tea / coffee, have meetings about nothing in particular, go out for an hour or longer lunch, reapply make up, and even I caught one having a nap!

    And then at about 4 o clock they all start to panic, they realize they wasted their working day and end up working hard for the last 2 hours, but cant finish all the work. They end up staying until 7 or so at night, because they have not been using their time effectively in the day.

    Better managers are needed. Not just promoting people coz their male and have been there a long time.

  • 6


    Japan has to learn when to say no to bullies aka employers

  • 4


    @Kimuzukashi: its not only that. Some companies are inefficient. To do something requires a lot of paperwork and hankos sometime. Grosely inefficient.

    Buy something new for the office, first need a 2 day meeting. Then an official paper for requesting it at the buchou, he has to ask the kachou and he will ask the shachou. Then they all need to stamp their hankos.........im not even gonna finish this story sigh

  • 0


    When asked, a third of the people who don’t receive full payment simply say they never report the 21.3 on average hours worked per month. The top two reasons for not reporting overtime were a company imposed limit on overtime hours (24.2%) and a work environment that discourages reporting overtime hours (35.3%).

    First off 21.3 hours per MONTH? That comes out to less than 1 hour per day, there is some serious under reporting going on here. I know folks who put in that much overtime in one week. And no they don't get paid for it either. They do it because as I see it, they are nuts. But then what do I know?

    I like (sarcasm) the line "discourages reporting overtime hours", which directly translated means, work your butt off, don't complain, gaman suru, but keep working.

  • 1


    The lack of productivity during normal working hours is a very big thing, resulting in people staying at work late. And I'm very surprised a only 35.3% saying the work environment discourages reporting overtime. I wonder if there was an option to say overtime can be reported but just won't pay it.

  • 1


    Everyone knows that most companies routinely break the law on overtime payments, yet almost nothing is done except when someone works themselves to death.

    Where I worked we had cards to access the building and most rooms within it. It would be easy to automatically create a record of hours worked using that system, one that managers couldn't alter. Instead, we had to enter our hours manually and the bullying manager pressurised us to keep overtime under 20 hours per month. I rarely worked that much overtime, but my colleagues lost large sums that way.

  • 1


    As pointed out by kimuzukashiiiii, poor management is to blame. A good manager leads by example and directs people on how to use their time productively and give extra help to those who need it. I have heard of, and seen myself, many Japanese people slack at work and create work for themselves by simply just not knuckling down like they should. It is almost like they want to do overtime to show their co-workers, boss, family etc that they are working hard... where in reality it is a sign they they aren't working hard enough. Also the whole paper work thing in this country... fill out duplicate, triplicate forms etc...Grrrrr! so 1: unnecessary, 2: unproductive, 3:time consuming/wasting, 4:waste of paper.

  • 3


    But they still schedule mandatory staff meetings at 6:30pm and the average person leaves the office at about 8pm.

    Which if any of your co-workers or you chose to report to the labor standards office could result in problems for your company.

    But since the drones don't want to make waves everyone just takes it up the.....and suffers, and allows the company to get away with it. It is illegal, but EVERYONE overlooks it.

  • 0


    This is pretty typical.

  • 1


    The Japanes company I used to work for bluntly said to me that they would not pay any overtime. I had to seek legal advice and they agreed that I could get time off instead of payment. When the time came for me to ask for this time off, they were furious and made my life hell. I quit eventually.

  • 1


    One of the sad things is that I often meet find foreign business owners here defending this practice, because they can easily get Japanese staff to work for free. You get the feeling that if slavery weren't illegal, a lot of ppl would own some.

  • 0


    I'm a bit irritated that 29% don't even know if they are paid. Is this part of the Japanese culture that you don't care about such things? When I asked questions about income tax etc. not even the people in charge could answer me some simple questions...

    well anyway, I work for a medium sized Japanese engineering company and I actually get paid 100% because I report my overtime. There is even an extension to the limit when necessary. Seeing the figures I can guess that my colleagues report only half of their overtime if not less.

    Getting paid is fine but it doesn't really compensate for the loss of free time and health issues you get by working till 10 pm every day. I was thinking about possibilities to minimize my workload... but apparently the only solution is to leave this workaholic country for good.

  • -1


    I work for a Japanese company and they told me I had to come in 20-30 minutes early to prepare for my work day. I told them to get stuffed if they were not going to pay me overtime. This is such a common thing in Japan. So many people go to work early and leave late without ever receiving payment for it. Therefore, all Japanese workers need to learn a good old Aussie phrase, "Get stuffed mate!"

  • 0


    Japan has to learn when to say no to bullies aka employers

    And employers need to be able to fire their inept staff. Many employees are useless and waste time. Why should companies pay overtime to staff because they are poor workers and want overtime pay. It works both pays. Staff screw around all day and get to work around three and want the overtime pay and then want to cry about it. That isn't to say there aren't companies screwing around their employees but I think it's actually more the employees that are the issue, not the employers. That being said, putting meetings at 6:30 when work finishes at 6:00 is wrong. Thing is though, how many staff have the balls to demand pay for that? None. Which is why companies know they can do it.

  • 1


    Seems same thing goes on where I work. Foreign company, getting more Japanese by the day as the gaijin give up and the Yes-men take over... We have time cards so it ought to be a simple task knowing exactly how long people work. But, of course, if you have staff punching out at five while they stay at work till ten, then you really can't control it. Personally I think it's a mix of enormous insecurity, sempai/kohai mentality (don't ever question your boss) and wanting to be perceived as a hard worker because as a previous poster said, this seems to the norm in Japan.

  • 2


    I work at a large, quite traditional Japanese company and the past few years have seen a big clampdown on overtime work. Last month I did a total of 10 hours overtime, which I had to justify to my boss, and was paid for every minute. The problem in the past was people buggering around, many of whom ( or in many cases their wives ) COUNTED on the overtime payments, while their managers did little or nothing about this ( many of them were in the same boat ). Thankfully, hire and fire policies are a non-starter in Japan but competent managers, hired or promoted, need to be in charge rather than promoting anyone based on length of service and doing sod all in their last 10-15 years. Fortunately, the company I work for has woken up to this, I'm not sure others have.

  • -2


    Well this is a huge shock. It may be one of those very flimsy, intentionally very vague japanese laws that every j-company intentionally ignores and the j-government lets them ignore to have j-companies have to pay overtime but from my very many years of living in japan I have never ever once heard of any person ever getting paid any type of overtime compensation. Ever. However we all are very well aware of j-companies forcing their employees by bullying to put in unreasonable amounts of overtime work for no compensation.

  • 0


    Regarding the 29% who "don't know whether they receive overtime or not": a charitable interpretation is that they go home on time every day and have never needed to worry about whether extra time is paid for!

    When I first started at my salaryman job around the turn of the millennium, no overtime was paid at all, yet we all worked around 120 hours of overtime every month. This would have been tolerable had my salary not been the roughly Y3 million that any young employee makes -- I couldn't even afford to move closer to work! I never left the office before 9 PM even once, for several years, and typically I wouldn't have enough time to sleep even if I skipped dinner and climbed right in the futon after getting home!

    Today things have reformed somewhat, but we still only pay overtime in excess of 40 hours in a month. (So if you work 45 hours of overtime in a single month, you get 5 hours' pay.) Not a fan of this system as it's possible to go home on time every day except in one week where you put in 16-hour days but still don't get any money, but it's better than how things once were!

    And even then, we have people going over to slash their time cards at quitting time and then going right back to their desks!

  • 0


    It is 2014 and I am guessing the statistics are the same if not worst. Form my experience and those of family it is pretty typical for work to start at 8 or earlier am and finish at 10:30pm. Of course all the overtime is service so unpaid. There is no concept of legality, it is illegal, but companie just don't care.

    There is a sense of Japanese sense of duty, so no one complains. What has made things worse, has been the poor state of the economy. This means many worker work as contract workers, meaning, health, pension contributions are very low, no yearly bonus, limited holidays. However they expect, the same commitment of a part time worker or contract worker as a full time worker who has a better pay with benefits. Worst still it is easier for the company to dismiss contract workers, so in some cases you will find the lower paid workers working harder than the full time employees.

    Again and again I here talk about the importance of society, families, being a shakaijin, however I fail to see how anyone who is essentially locked to their desk at work, can contribute to society, build a healthy happy family. As usual talk and action are miles apart.

    Working long hours must have a detrimental effect on efficiency, creativity, and motivation. No one seems to consider this? The ideas, of work smart not mindlessly hard long hours with no creativity.

    My hope is Japanese companies wake up and treat their employees,like humans, with families, the right to personel development and the right to contribute to society outside of the workplace.

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