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Japanese can't work harder than they do; in association with RBS.

Byline: PETER JACKSON

OFFICIALS of the Japanese sport of Sumo wrestling are cracking the whip after some of its protagonists have been caught moonlighting.

Things have come to a head apparently after one wrestler was banned after - and this is hard to picture - being caught on TV playing football while supposedly injured.

Perhaps this is one of the earliest signs of an impending labour shortage in Japan, forcing its workers to turn their hand to anything.

For, according to a Japanese government report, the country's working population will shrink by more than a third by 2050, to 42 million.

This is blamed on declining birth rates, an ageing population and a failure to get women and the elderly into work.

This is going to be a big problem for them. I worked for a Japanese bank for a couple of years, and, I have to say, it's hard to see how they could work any harder. At my bank, the senior Japanese executives would not leave at night until the md, the unfortunately named Mr Sakashita, had gone home, usually around midnight. He was well aware of this and, being a compassionate man, would often pretend to leave and take a turn around the block at that hour, to give them time to go, before returning to his desk for another couple of hours. The same Japanese report confirms this, pointing out that one in every 10 Japanese employees puts in more than 60 hours a week, so there's clearly not a lot of slack.

But again, from what I saw of the Japanese, if they couldn't have worked any harder, they could certainly have worked smarter. For one thing, while their obsessive attention to detail led to great quality control, it made for a ponderous and unresponsive bank.

My advice would be - and this applies to the Sumo wrestlers - don't sweat the small stuff.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 24, 2008
Words:315
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