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Two Years On, ‘Premium Friday’ is Still a Laughing Stock

This political program should have reformed Japan’s poor working conditions. Instead, it's getting roasted online.

By 4 min read

The Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) announced Premium Friday’s second year anniversary on Twitter last Friday, and the Internet responded with an overwhelming, “Oh, that thing’s still happening?”

What even is Premium Friday?

Premium Friday is a gem of an idea concealed in the coal of lukewarm execution. According to METI who spearheads the project, the goal is for employees to leave work early on the last Friday of the month to put money into the economy and promote better work-life balance.

In a country where a quarter of employees work 80 hours overtime a month and some are even overworked to the point of death, the motivation behind Premium Friday is invaluable. Yet it has no legal backing and its promotional messaging is wishy-washy and puzzling, as can be found on Premium Friday’s homepage.

What can you do on Premium Friday?

If you’re looking for inspiration on how to spend a half-day off work next Premium Friday, just take a look at their website for some fun and bizarre ideas!

premium-friday.com/about/

Premium Friday is perfect for what the above example calls, “A leisurely and luxurious weekday of afternoon bra shopping,” because what else would women do in their spare time? No really, please tell us, we clearly have no idea.

Ok, it’s not what we think it means. 「ブラ」is short for 「ブラブラ」which means leisurely, so they are actually suggesting a leisurely afternoon of shopping which makes a whole lot more sense.*

premium-friday.com/about/

Here’s another helpful suggestion — to spend Premium Friday “getting the gang together for some relaxed night drinking,” an interesting marketing choice considering the clear midday sunlight beating down on the models in the picture.

premium-friday.com/about/

The next advert boasts, “Every last Friday of the month, our company lets everyone go home early.” Well, these jerks should stop rubbing it in everyone’s faces, because Premium Friday has had a pretty pathetic 11% success rate in getting employees home early, according to an article by NHK posted on Feb. 22.

What do Japanese people think of Premium Friday?

According to most feedback online, even the reported 11% success rate seems way too high.

Twitter user @call_me_nots responded to the NHK article saying, “What? Was it even that effective!?”

This sentiment has been echoed across social media with many surprised to hear Premium Friday had reached even a humble 11% success rate.

Another Twitter user, @prohageitar chimed in:

“Oh yeah, it’s Premium Friday today. Also, it’s apparently been going on for two years, lol. I wonder why it never gained any traction? Is anyone finishing work at 3 pm and going home? Wouldn’t it be better to go ahead and make it a national holiday? Like the Happy Monday System? But then work would just pile up… It’s not easy, is it?”

He has a good point — there has been no concrete follow-through on the Premium Friday initiative. If the Japanese government made the day a national holiday or companies were fined for having employees work late on Premium Fridays, perhaps workers would find a reason to celebrate Premium Friday rather than roast it.

Simple and to the point, @Y_Z_YOU simply states, “I want to poke fun at Premium Friday every month when I see it on the news, haha.”

With a long list of Tweets expressing surprise and making fun of Premium Friday every time it rolls around, it’s clear that @Y_Z_YOU isn’t alone in that sentiment.

What does the future have in store for Premium Friday?

Amidst a majority of voices poking fun at the Premium Friday concept and questioning its purpose and efficacy, METI is doubling down on its efforts to cause real change by encouraging workers to take on new hobbies, and attend classes at their brand new “Premium Friday University” which are essentially seminars across the country on topics including cybersecurity, service design, and ethical consumerism.

Whether that’s the missing ingredient needed to turn the project from a laughing stock into a game changer for Japan’s workforce is yet to be seen.

*This post erroneously said that the government suggested we go bra shopping on Premium Friday. Sadly, that is a mistranslation and unfortunately not true. Thank you to readers for spotting that!

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