Japanese company’s family-friendly policies boost fertility and profits

The company's innovative strategy included prohibiting office work after 8 pm and drastically cutting down on overtime, with only rare exceptions


Itochu Corp., one of Japan’s leading trading houses, has defied the country’s declining birthrate trend by effectively implementing measures to promote work-life balance and encourage employees to start families.

Under the guidance of Masahiro Okafuji, CEO, Itochu prioritised enhancing productivity and work-life balance, resulting in remarkable transformations such as a surge in profit per employee and an unexpected increase in the fertility rate among female employees.

Taking the reins of Itochu in 2010, Okafuji pursued an ambitious vision to strengthen the company’s competitiveness against larger rivals in Japan. His unconventional approach involved banning office work after 8 pm and significantly reducing overtime, except in rare cases.

Security guards and human resources staff were tasked with ensuring employees left the office on time, with those remaining asked to come in early the next day to complete their tasks and receive extra compensation.

The results were astounding, with Itochu witnessing a more than fivefold increase in profit per employee from 2010 to 2021.

Japan’s low fertility rate, labelled a ‘national crisis’ by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, is a cause of concern throughout the country.  However, at Itochu, the fertility rate among full-time female employees nearly doubled, reaching almost two children per employee by March 2022, surpassing Japan’s current national rate of about 1.3.

These initiatives, combined with the establishment of a daycare centre near the office, provided many female employees at Itochu the opportunity to return to work after having children, easing their efforts to carry out their responsibilities.

Comment on the Article

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

eleven + 7 =