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Prospect of daylight saving time in Japan draws mixed reactions in business community

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TOKYO >> Japan’s business community is discussing the pros and cons of daylight saving time, as the government and Liberal Democratic Party consider implementing the system.

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 implemented daylight saving on a trial basis for one month in summer 2007. During the trial, use of air conditioning fell as employees started work earlier when temperatures were low, resulting in a 5 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

“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 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 $6.3 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. started its business day an hour earlier at 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 April 2012, Unicharm has started its business day at 8 a.m. year-round.

Kikkoman Corp. and Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance 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.

Some transport, financial and medical facilities oppose the change, saying that their operations are based on intricate timetables.

A Kansai railway official expressed concern about the massive amount of work necessary to reprogram operational controls and ticketing services for the start and end of daylight saving time.

Japan Research Institute 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.”

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