News Article

Seven-Eleven labour crunch seese some Japanese 24-hour operations to end

At some stores, Seven-Eleven Japan Co. ceases 24-hour service, becoming the first big convenience store retailer to scale back around the clock operating hours to tackle Japan’s labour shortage.

Eight stores on November 1 will start cutting back on their operating hours because they find it increasingly impossible to work the night shift, the retailer announced Monday.

Additional stores can also shorten their operating hours by joining some 200 outlets out of a total of 21,000 nationwide, which are currently experimenting on a trial basis with shorter hours.

“By our new guidelines, we must speak to shop owners. Seven-Eleven Japanese President Fumihiko Nagamatsu said at a news conference that they would make a final decision “on whether to shorten operating hours.

Japan’s largest convenience store operator set up the 24-hour business in 1975 by the number of outlets.

Operations around the clock improve efficiency by allowing late-night storage of shelves, said Seven-Eleven Japan. They decided to try shorter hours of service after a franchise owner in Osaka Prefecture stirred controversy when he said he had to cut business hours in his store without Seven-Eleven Japan’s approval because he couldn’t find enough people willing to work there.

FamilyMart Co. said 612 locations, or 3.7 million of its total franchise shops, were carrying out shorter hours on a trial basis, among other large convenience store chains.

A spokesperson for FamilyMart said after the trial period, the retailer would determine whether to end its 24-hour services.

Lawson Inc. said it had ceased working overnight at around 100 of its outlets. Like Seven-Eleven, Lawson’s franchise owners’ agreements do not allow them to be available 24 hours a day. Still, the company decided to temporarily close about 100 outlets on this New Year’s Day to give its workers a break on the national holiday to mitigate the labour shortage.

Labour scarcity poses a serious threat to other industries as Japan’s population rapidly greys, including restaurants, construction, and nursing care.

It is estimated that the workforce would fall 20 per cent from 2017 rates in 2040 due to the overall population decline, but that could be mitigated by more females and elderly people joining the workforce, a government study found earlier this year.

In April, the government launched a new visa system to bring in more international workers to help companies struggling to find jobs.

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