Working Hours and Satisfaction: A comparative analysis of Japan, the United Kingdom, and Germany

Author Name ASANO Hirokatsu  (Asia University) /KENJOH Eiko  (Asia University)
Creation Date/NO. March 2011 11-J-037
Research Project International Comparison of Measures to Improve Work-Life Balance and Consideration of Challenges Facing Japanese Companies
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We investigate the relationship between working hours and working-hour satisfaction and that between working hours and life satisfaction for white-collar permanent employees in Japan, the United Kingdom, and Germany. We use data obtained from the International Survey on Work-Life Balance, which was conducted by the Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI) and the Economic and Social Research Institute, Cabinet Office (ESRI) in Japan. The survey shows that Japan has the highest proportion of workers with long weekly working hours. Also, the unconditional average of both working-hour satisfaction and life satisfaction in Japan is lower than that of the UK, and Germany.

We estimate ordered probit models with working-hour satisfaction and life satisfaction as dependent variables. Estimation results show that with other things being equal, working-hour satisfaction decreases as weekly working hours increase in all three countries. Results for life satisfaction reveal similar patterns, although the impact of weekly working hours is smaller than in the case of working-hour satisfaction.

We also calculate predictions on the basis of our estimation results in which we control for personal, occupational and other characteristics. The prediction results show that the conditional average of working-hour satisfaction and life satisfaction is not necessarily lower in Japan than in the UK or Germany, unlike what the unconditional results suggest. Phrased differently, working-hour satisfaction and life satisfaction for Japanese workers is not below the satisfaction levels of British and German workers that have the same characteristics. This difference in the conditional and unconditional results can be attributed to the fact that many more Japanese workers have characteristics that are connected with lower satisfaction levels. Our results thus suggest that it would be possible to increase working-hour satisfaction and life satisfaction in Japan if the institutional factors that currently bring people lower satisfaction can be altered. For instance, additional flexibility geared towards bringing actual working hours closer to desired working hours could prove worthwhile in increasing satisfaction levels.