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EDITORIAL | Labor Thanksgiving 2020—Let’s Grit our Teeth to get Through Tough Times




~Just remember: we can get through this rough patch somehow if we grit our teeth and pull together.~



On Monday, November 23 Japan celebrated Labor Thanksgiving Day, even as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to rage across the nation. 


Can we honestly say that in the past we have fully appreciated the true import of the word “labor” as much as we do today? Probably not. 



The Act on National Holidays says that this is a holiday dedicated to the nation’s people coming together to honor labor, celebrate productive activities and offer thanks for their blessings.


Nevertheless, as much as we may esteem labor, the fact is that many people have lost their jobs and there have been numerous coronavirus-related bankruptcies. Furthermore, many companies have been forced to lay off workers or stop hiring. The epidemic has had a truly tragic impact.


Hospital workers waving to Blue Impulse flying overhead in appreciation during the pandemic


Moreover, this year the list of companies which have been seeking to downsize by identifying early retirees and employees who might be inclined to retire early has been steadily rising. Even business sectors that were showing signs or reviving economic activities have seen their future prospects dim again with the arrival of a third wave of COVID-19.


How many of us are currently facing adversity? Just remember: we can get through this rough patch somehow if we grit our teeth and pull together. 



Government officials to be sure, but also leaders of the private sector need to grasp the problem and wrack their brains to find ways to keep businesses going and maintain employment, while also creating new opportunities. 


One promising approach is “job sharing,” which gets employees to engage in different kinds of jobs. For example, cabin crew members and other employees at Japan Airlines have been seconded to local governments and other offices.


Such innovative approaches could prove very valuable strategies in industries which have seen demand devastated by COVID-19.


Everyone working is making a contribution to society. As the Act on National Holidays says, Labor Thanksgiving Day is a day on which the nation’s people should collectively give thanks. 



That is especially true since the roots of the holiday are to be found in the ancient Niinamesai harvest festival, in which the Emperor on behalf of all the people thanks the kami (spirits) for the year’s harvest and is the first to taste the new rice.


We should bear in mind our traditional spirit of working together as an agricultural people. In hard times such as these when people find themselves out of work, we must come together as a people to support one another.


Closed shops, telework, reduced hours, stressful year for labor under COVID-19 risks and mitigation measures


If worst comes to worst and people find it difficult to manage in their daily lives, we should not hesitate to step in and provide various kinds of assistance, including public assistance and food banks. 


Even in the midst of the COVID-19 epidemic, “essential workers”—which include garbage collectors, transport workers and supermarket employees, as well as of course health care workers and nursing care staff—have remained on the job. Again, we applaud their valiant service. 



COVID-19 has given a big push to new workstyles, including working at home. While recognizing how efficient these workstyles can be, we cannot help but feel that there are undoubtedly situations in which actual on-the-job conversation and interaction among coworkers remains important. 


As we face the third wave of COVID-19, the reality is that we must once again endure restrictions on our activities. Even so, we should not forget the spirit of working together with our colleagues even under difficult conditions and thereby contributing to society. 


(Read the original editorial here in Japanese.)


Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun