WLB in the UK: Present situation and challenges for national and corporate initiatives, suggestions for Japan

Author Name YAJIMA Yoko  (Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting Co., Ltd.)
Creation Date/NO. March 2011 11-J-039
Research Project International Comparison of Measures to Improve Work-Life Balance and Consideration of Challenges Facing Japanese Companies
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In this paper, we develop a sense of the present situation and challenges of work-life balance (WLB) policies, corporate initiatives, and the workplace environment from the perspective of workers in the UK, and we carry out a comparison analysis with initiatives in Japan. Further, the analysis in this paper is a summary based on the results of a questionnaire survey of workers in Japan and the UK, a survey of the literature, and the results of local interview surveys in the UK.

The UK resembles Japan in the sense that problems with long working hours and employment disparities based on stereotyped perceptions of gender roles form the background to the start of WLB initiatives to encourage flexible working styles. There are also commonalities in the sense that the emphasis is basically on encouraging independent initiatives by demonstrating the advantages of WLB initiatives for corporations, even though legislation to strengthen the rights of workers to choose flexible work patterns has been introduced in part. In contrast to Japan, where the initiatives commenced in 2007, those in the UK started in 2000, and from the perspectives of the government, corporations and the labor unions, certain outcomes and issues have been identified with regard to WLB initiatives. Based on awareness at the institutions concerned and changes in the social environment indicated by statistical data, this paper compiles the present state of the initiatives, outcomes and issues in the UK, and presents suggestions for Japan. In addition, by analyzing the worker questionnaires, we also indicate differences and commonalities between Japan and the UK in the choice of work patterns made by men and women with children. In particular, in the context of stereotyped gender roles in the home even in the midst of options for flexible working styles, the analysis focuses on the impact on workplace productivity, the ease of running the workplace, and differences in perceptions between the UK and Japan with regard to the "Short working hours" style of working where the proportion of use by women is high.