The Japanese government plans to submit legislation to the country's parliament that would make it mandatory for workers to take at least five days of paid vacation a year.
The move reflects the desire of the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to curb Japan's notorious work culture, where office workers are known to log long hours and often work overtime for no additional compensation. The cause for roughly one-third of suicides in Japan in 2011 was attributed to overwork.
A survey by the country's Labor Ministry in 2013 found that employees only took nine out of an average entitlement of 18.5 days of paid vacation. Another poll, according to the Japan Times, found that 1 in 6 workers took no paid vacation whatsoever.
Americans, known for their uncompromising work ethic, look like laggards in comparison. A 2014 study found that 40 percent of American employees leave vacation days on the table, as part of a post-recession "martyr complex."
That said, the United States remains the only country in the developed world that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation days. Below is a chart from a 2013 report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research. (Some European countries even mandate employers to pay an employee a premium for a given holiday period, in order to help cover travel and vacation costs; they also have far more stringent laws regarding the hours employees can keep on a given work day.)
Japan ranks at the bottom with the United States, but its neurosis around work may be even worse. Japanese work culture is so intense that it has spawned its own word -- "karoshi," or death from overwork. According to a 2008 article in The Post, the phrase entered Japanese parlance during "the boom years of the late 1970s, as the number of Japanese men working more than 60 hours a week soared."
Since then, the "salaryman" -- the hard-working, white-collar paragon of Japan's economic success -- became a sort of national icon. A generational shift and more enlightened views on gender roles have slowly eroded this conventional norm.
"We must also reform the work style that places importance on the amount of time spent working, an orientation created by men," Abe said in a speech last May. The country's health ministry last year recommended office workers take 30 minute naps in the early afternoon.
But old habits remain, including the pressure to be so committed to your job that only a mandate from the government could convince you to take a break.