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Prospect of daylight saving time draws mixed reactions

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Yomiuri ShimbunJapan’s business community is discussing the pros and cons of daylight saving time, as the government and Liberal Democratic Party consider implementing the system in tandem with the 2020 Tokyo Games.

The introduction of daylight saving time is expected to positively affect the environment, such as by prompting a decrease in carbon dioxide emissions. However, labor unions fear it would result in longer working hours.

There have already been strong calls from business circles to introduce daylight saving time, as it would boost consumer spending and benefit the environment. The Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) Secretariat introduced the system on a trial basis for one month in the summer of 2007. During the trial, use of air conditioning fell as employees started work earlier in the morning when temperatures were low, resulting in a 5 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from the previous year.

“In light of the recent intense heat, our employees would appreciate being able to work in the cool of the morning,” said a spokesperson for major general contractor Obayashi Corp.

Daylight hours after work would also increase, which would likely boost consumption as people spend more money on eating out and other activities.

Dai-ichi Life Research Institute Inc. economist Tohihiro Nagahama estimated that by moving clocks forward one hour from March through October, economic activity would increase by about ¥700 billion per year.

Following the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 2011, some companies implemented earlier working hours as a means of saving energy. Unicharm Corp. moved the start of its business day up by an hour to 8 a.m. that year.

“This motivated our employees to work efficiently so they could leave early, resulting in a drastic reduction in overtime,” a company spokesperson said. Since in April 2012, Unicharm has started its business day at 8 a.m. year-round.

Kikkoman Corp. and Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance Inc. have also adopted similar systems.

However, labor unions strongly oppose the introduction of daylight saving time, saying it would lead to longer working hours. Employees who work with overseas clients and branch offices, for example, may be forced to work overtime if their overseas partners do not similarly adopt new business hours.

As a result, some companies gave up on their new schedules about a year after introducing them.

Moreover, a number of transport, financial and medical facilities manage their operations based on intricate timetables. An official of a major railway company in the Kansai region expressed concern, saying: “If we had to reprogram our operational controls and ticketing services due to the introduction [of daylight saving time], we’d face a workload similar to that needed for a massive scheduling change.”

Japan Research Institute Ltd. counselor Hisashi Yamada said: “The systems changes and other adjustments would cost a lot of money. Various factors have to be considered together, such as the effects on employees’ work style and health.” Speech

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