You Can Buy Historic Italian Houses for €1 — But What’s the Catch?

From Abruz­zo to Verge­moli, small Ital­ian towns and vil­lages have recent­ly been mak­ing their his­toric homes avail­able for pur­chase for as low as €1. Giv­en the pic­turesque nature of many of these places, such offers have proven prac­ti­cal­ly irre­sistible to for­eign buy­ers who’ve made their mon­ey and are look­ing to escape the big-city rat race, or even those sim­ply prone to Under the Tus­can Sun-type fan­tasies. But this is, of course, more than just a mat­ter of wiring a sin­gle Euro and jet­ting off to a life of rus­tic beau­ty and sim­plic­i­ty. As shown in these videos from Explained with Dom and Insid­er News, you’ve got to put much more mon­ey into the acqui­si­tion and reha­bil­i­ta­tion of these hous­es, not to men­tion the sweat equi­ty involved.

“As young Ital­ians increas­ing­ly migrate to the city” — if not to oth­er coun­tries entire­ly — “and choose cos­mopoli­tan jobs over rur­al and com­mu­ni­ty voca­tions, many of Italy’s pret­ti­est remote vil­lages are becom­ing aban­doned, with tiny, age­ing pop­u­la­tions that are begin­ning to die off,” write the Inde­pen­dent’s Lucy Thack­ray.

“Some elder­ly Ital­ians have found them­selves with no one to leave their house to, bequeath­ing it instead to the local author­i­ties, who have to decide what to do with it, while some younger cit­i­zens have inher­it­ed prop­er­ties in areas they have no inten­tion of mov­ing to.” And so “around 25 Ital­ian munic­i­pal­i­ties are mak­ing prospec­tive home­own­ers an offer they can’t refuse,” though cer­tain con­di­tions do apply.

Old and less than immac­u­late­ly main­tained on the whole, these hous­es tend to require ren­o­va­tions “in the region of €20,000–50,000 depend­ing on the size of the prop­er­ty.” And the author­i­ties do make sure you’ll actu­al­ly per­form the work: “new own­ers are required to sub­mit details of a ren­o­va­tion project with­in two to 12 months of pur­chase (depend­ing on the loca­tion), start work with­in one year, and com­plete it with­in the next three.” Add on all the addi­tion­al (and often unex­pect­ed) fees, and even a best-case sce­nario starts to look pricey. Still, if you’re total­ly com­mit­ted to reha­bil­i­tat­ing a ven­er­a­ble Ital­ian home — and not just to rent it out to vaca­tion­ers, which some areas explic­it­ly pro­hib­it — it might sound like a fair enough deal.

One thing is cer­tain: any­one look­ing to buy into one of Italy’s cheap-house schemes (at a price of €1 or oth­er­wise) should go in with not just suf­fi­cient knowl­edge of domes­tic archi­tec­ture and remod­el­ing, but also a famil­iar­i­ty with Ital­ian ways of doing busi­ness — which have done their part to con­tribute to the so-called “Ital­ian dis­ease” that has sad­dled the coun­try with decades of eco­nom­ic stag­na­tion, but aren’t like­ly to change any time soon. And above all, it should go with­out say­ing that the first step of act­ing on a desire to play a part in bring­ing one of Italy’s “ghost towns” back to life is learn­ing the Ital­ian lan­guage — a task you can start right here on Open Cul­ture. Buona for­tu­na to you.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Explor­ing the Great­est of Italy’s 6,000 Ghost Towns: Take a Tour of Cra­co, Italy

Dis­cov­er the Ghost Towns of Japan — Where Scare­crows Replace Peo­ple, and a Man Lives in an Aban­doned Ele­men­tary School Gym

Behold 3D Recre­ations of Pompeii’s Lav­ish Homes–As They Exist­ed Before the Erup­tion of Mount Vesu­vius

High-Res­o­lu­tion Walk­ing Tours of Italy’s Most His­toric Places: The Colos­se­um, Pom­peii, St. Peter’s Basil­i­ca & More

Venice Explained: Its Archi­tec­ture, Its Streets, Its Canals, and How Best to Expe­ri­ence Them All

Free Ital­ian Lessons

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities and the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Wes Anderson Directs & Stars in an Ad Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Montblanc’s Signature Pen

One hard­ly has to be an expert on the films of Wes Ander­son to imag­ine that the man writes with a foun­tain pen. Maybe back in the ear­ly nine­teen-nineties, when he was shoot­ing the black-and-white short that would become Bot­tle Rock­et on the streets of Austin, he had to set­tle for ordi­nary ball­points. But now that he’s long since claimed his place in the top ranks of major Amer­i­can auteurs, he can indulge his taste for painstak­ing crafts­man­ship and recent-past anti­quar­i­an­ism both onscreen and off. For a brand like Mont­blanc, this sure­ly made him the ide­al choice to direct a com­mer­cial cel­e­brat­ing the hun­dredth anniver­sary of their flag­ship writ­ing tool, the Meis­ter­stück.

Shot at Stu­dio Babels­berg in Ger­many, where Ander­son is at work on his next fea­ture The Phoeni­cian Scheme, the result­ing short “fea­tures Ander­son him­self, sport­ing a wispy wal­rus mus­tache, as well as fre­quent col­lab­o­ra­tors Jason Schwartz­man and Rupert Friend, all pos­ing as a group of moun­tain-climbers with a par­tic­u­lar affec­tion for the free­dom and inspi­ra­tion offered by Montblanc’s prod­ucts,” writes Indiewire’s Har­ri­son Rich­lin.

With­in its first minute, “the ad takes us from the cold, snowy caps of Mont Blanc to a cozy chalet Ander­son announces as The Mont Blanc Obser­va­to­ry and Writer’s Room.” Vogue Busi­ness’ Christi­na Bink­ley reports that this indoor-to-out­door tran­si­tion alone required 50 takes, which was only one of the sur­pris­es in store for Mont­blanc’s mar­ket­ing offi­cer.

Ander­son also turned up with an unex­pect­ed pro­pos­al of his own. “The film­mak­er pre­sent­ed a pro­to­type pen of his own design that he asked the Ger­man com­pa­ny to man­u­fac­ture,” Bink­ley writes. “He’d even named it: the Schreiber­ling, which means ‘the scrib­bler’ in Ger­man. That had not been part of the pitch.” Per­haps con­vinced by the built pro­to­type assem­bled by Ander­son­’s set-design team, Mont­blanc “agreed to pro­duce 1,969 copies of this small, green foun­tain pen to com­mem­o­rate Ander­son­’s birth year, 1969.” At 55 years of age, Ander­son may no longer be the preter­nat­u­ral­ly con­fi­dent young film­mak­er we remem­ber from the days of Rush­more or The Roy­al Tenen­baums, but since then, he’s only grown more adept at get­ting exact­ly what he wants from a com­pa­ny, whether it be a movie stu­dio or a Euro­pean lux­u­ry-goods man­u­fac­tur­er.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Wes Anderson’s Shorts Films & Com­mer­cials: A Playlist of 8 Short Ander­son­ian Works

Mont­blanc Unveils a New Line of Miles Davis Pens … and (Kind of) Blue Ink

Why Do Wes Ander­son Movies Look Like That?

Neil Gaiman Talks Dream­i­ly About Foun­tain Pens, Note­books & His Writ­ing Process in His Long Inter­view with Tim Fer­riss

Has Wes Ander­son Sold Out? Can He Sell Out? Crit­ics Take Up the Debate

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Learn to Become a Supply Chain Data Analyst with Unilever’s New Certificate Program

Sup­ply chains—we nev­er thought too much about them. That is, until the pan­dem­ic, when sup­ply chains expe­ri­enced severe dis­rup­tions world­wide, leav­ing us wait­ing for prod­ucts for weeks, if not months. That’s when we start­ed appre­ci­at­ing the impor­tance of sup­ply chains and their resilience.

Com­pa­nies like Unilever rely on sup­ply chains to man­u­fac­ture their goods (e.g., Dove, Lip­ton, and Ben & Jer­ry’s) and then move them around the globe. For Unilever, it’s essen­tial that their sup­ply chains remain effi­cient and strong. Work­ing in part­ner­ship with Cours­era, the com­pa­ny has cre­at­ed a new Sup­ply Chain Data Ana­lyst Pro­fes­sion­al Cer­tifi­cate to help entry-lev­el pro­fes­sion­als learn more about using data to man­age effec­tive sup­ply chains. Designed to be com­plet­ed in rough­ly four months, the cer­tifi­cate con­sists of four cours­es: 1) Sup­ply Chain Man­age­ment and Ana­lyt­ics, 2) Using Data Ana­lyt­ics in Sup­ply Chain, 3) Imple­ment­ing Sup­ply Chain Ana­lyt­ics, and 4) Sup­ply Chain Soft­ware Tools.

As stu­dents move through the pro­gram, they will learn how to “achieve cost sav­ings, reduce lead times, enhance cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion, and adapt to chang­ing mar­ket con­di­tions through data-dri­ven insights and ana­lyt­i­cal approach­es.” They will also learn key skills like demand fore­cast­ing and how to mon­i­tor sup­ply chains for secu­ri­ty risks.

Empha­siz­ing real-world expe­ri­ence, stu­dents will “take on the role of an ana­lyst for a fic­ti­tious con­sumer goods com­pa­ny spe­cial­iz­ing in organ­ic farm to table con­sumer prod­ucts. With over 20 unique assign­ments, [stu­dents will] use spread­sheets and visu­al­iza­tion tools to ana­lyze data and make rec­om­men­da­tions.”

You can audit the four cours­es for free, or sign up to earn a share­able cer­tifi­cate for a fee. Stu­dents who select the lat­ter option will be charged $49 per month. Cours­era esti­mates that the cer­tifi­cate will take four months to com­plete, assum­ing you’re ded­i­cat­ing 10 hours per week. That amounts to about $200 in total. You can enroll here.

For those inter­est­ed, Unilever has also recent­ly released a new Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing Ana­lyst Cer­tifi­cate, which you can find here.

In addi­tion, until March 31, 2024, Cours­era is offer­ing $100 off of Cours­era Plus, which will let you take 7,000 cours­es (includ­ing the ones above) and not pay for the cer­tifi­cates. If you plan to take a lot of cours­es, and want to earn cer­tifi­cates, it can be a cost effec­tive approach.

Note: Open Cul­ture has a part­ner­ship with Cours­era. If read­ers enroll in cer­tain Cours­era cours­es and pro­grams, it helps sup­port Open Cul­ture.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Gen­er­a­tive AI for Every­one: A Free Course from AI Pio­neer Andrew Ng

Google Unveils a Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing & E‑Commerce Cer­tifi­cate: 7 Cours­es Will Help Pre­pare Stu­dents for an Entry-Lev­el Job in 6 Months

Google & Cours­era Cre­ate a Career Cer­tifi­cate That Pre­pares Stu­dents for Cyber­se­cu­ri­ty Jobs in 6 Months

by | Permalink | Make a Comment ( 13 ) |

Learn to Become a Digital Marketing Analyst with Unilever’s New Certificate Program

Unilever, the con­sumer goods com­pa­ny head­quar­tered in Lon­don, owns over 400 brands. Dove, Lip­ton, Ben & Jer­ry’s, Hell­man­n’s and Knorr–you know and use many of Unilever’s prod­ucts. The same goes for many peo­ple liv­ing across the globe. An esti­mat­ed 3.4 bil­lion peo­ple use Unilever prod­ucts every day. How has Unilever estab­lished such vast reach? Through mar­ket­ing. Like oth­er con­sumer prod­ucts com­pa­nies, Unilever depends on mar­ket­ing to build brand aware­ness for each prod­uct and to dif­fer­en­ti­ate them from com­peti­tors. Mar­ket­ing is part of the lifeblood of the orga­ni­za­tion, and dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing par­tic­u­lar­ly allows the com­pa­ny to thrive here in the 21st cen­tu­ry.

Hap­pi­ly, for any aspir­ing mar­keters out there, Unilever has just launched a new Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing Ana­lyst cer­tifi­cate pro­gram. Offered on the Cours­era plat­form, the pro­gram con­sists of four cours­es (each tak­ing an esti­mat­ed 20 hours to com­plete) that focus on help­ing stu­dents build job-ready skills in dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing ana­lyt­ics. The cours­es include:

  • Cus­tomer Under­stand­ing and Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing Chan­nels
  • Mea­sure­ment and Analy­sis
  • Cam­paign Per­for­mance Report­ing, Visu­al­iza­tion, & Improve­ment
  • Advanced Tools for Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing Ana­lyt­ics

As stu­dents move through the pro­gram, they will “learn in-demand skills like data analy­sis, cus­tomer seg­men­ta­tion, and SEO opti­miza­tion.” They will also start “col­lect­ing and inter­pret­ing data to eval­u­ate the per­for­mance of dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing efforts, improve strate­gies, and con­tribute to achiev­ing mar­ket­ing goals and objec­tives.”

Stu­dents can audit each course for free, or sign up to earn a share­able cer­tifi­cate. Stu­dents who select the lat­ter option will be charged $49 per month. So, if you spend 10 hours per week, you can com­plete the 80-hour cer­tifi­cate pro­gram in two months, and pay about $100 in total.

Sign up for the Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing Ana­lyst cer­tifi­cate pro­gram here.

Note: Open Cul­ture has a part­ner­ship with Cours­era. If read­ers enroll in cer­tain Cours­era cours­es and pro­grams, it helps sup­port Open Cul­ture.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Gen­er­a­tive AI for Every­one: A Free Course from AI Pio­neer Andrew Ng

Google Unveils a Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing & E‑Commerce Cer­tifi­cate: 7 Cours­es Will Help Pre­pare Stu­dents for an Entry-Lev­el Job in 6 Months

Google & Cours­era Cre­ate a Career Cer­tifi­cate That Pre­pares Stu­dents for Cyber­se­cu­ri­ty Jobs in 6 Months

by | Permalink | Make a Comment ( 2 ) |

Jimmy Buffett (RIP) Performs His New Song “Margaritaville,” Live in 1978: The Birth of a Song That Later Became a Business Empire

Jim­my Buf­fett wrote “Mar­gar­i­taville” in 1977.  It end­ed up being his only song to reach the pop Top 10. But the song car­ried him for the next 45 years. When you think Mar­gar­i­taville, you think of an easy-breezy way of life. And that sim­ple idea infused the brand of Buf­fet­t’s Mar­gar­i­taville busi­ness empire. Between the song’s birth and the singer’s death this week­end, Buf­fett cre­at­ed a Mar­gar­i­taville busi­ness empire that includ­ed bars, restau­rants, casi­nos, beach resorts, retire­ment com­mu­ni­ties, cruis­es, pack­aged foods, appar­el, footwear, and beyond. This spring, Buf­fett improb­a­bly made Forbes’ list of bil­lion­aires. Above, you can watch a young Jim­my Buf­fet per­form “Mar­gar­i­taville” in 1978, right at the begin­ning of the song’s long jour­ney from hit, to brand, to com­mer­cial empire.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!


How Streaming Led to the TV Writers Strike: Four TV Writers Explain the Logic of the Strike

Though it’s too ear­ly to know what will turn out to be the defin­ing cul­tur­al expe­ri­ence of the twen­ty-twen­ties, I’d put my mon­ey on first hear­ing of an acclaimed tele­vi­sion show from one of its devot­ed fans only after it’s already been on the air for months or even years, if not after its lament­ed can­cel­la­tion. Part of this has to do with a change in quan­ti­ty, laid out by tele­vi­sion writer War­ren Leight in the Vox video above: “There used to be 80 shows in a year. Now you’re up to 500, 550 shows in a year,” many of them cre­at­ed not for tra­di­tion­al broad­cast net­works but for new­er, con­tent-hun­gri­er online stream­ing plat­forms. “For writ­ers, it was good because it gave peo­ple entry.”

Writ­ing for stream­ing, Leight explains, “you did­n’t have to wor­ry about com­mer­cial breaks” and their dra­mat­ic dis­rup­tions. Instead, “you get to write a dif­fer­ent struc­ture. Maybe it’s just an organ­ic three-act struc­ture to an hour.” And in short­er stream­ing sea­sons, “you could arc a sto­ry across eight episodes. You can go a lit­tle dark­er, you can go a lit­tle deep­er.”

But “as the episode orders have shrunk,” says Leight’s col­league Julia Yorks, “what used to be 40 weeks of the year that you were work­ing is now 20 weeks,” with an at-least-con­comi­tant reduc­tion in pay­checks. What­ev­er its artis­tic short­com­ings, the old “net­work mod­el” guar­an­teed a cer­tain degree of sta­bil­i­ty for those who wrote its shows — a sta­bil­i­ty dis­rupt­ed by the age of stream­ing.

Hence the ongo­ing Writ­ers Guild of Amer­i­ca strike, and the cen­tral­i­ty to the WGA’s demands of improved resid­u­als (that is, pay­ments made for a pro­duc­tion after its ini­tial run) from stream­ing media. But the pro­fes­sion­als inter­viewed for this video also express con­cerns about what hap­pens to the shows them­selves when their writ­ing gets sep­a­rat­ed from their pro­duc­tion, which has become increas­ing­ly com­mon in recent years. On the likes of Law and Order or Friends, says Yorks, “your show was being filmed con­cur­rent­ly when you were in the writ­ers’ room,” cre­at­ing nat­ur­al oppor­tu­ni­ties for con­tin­u­ous cross-dis­ci­pli­nary inter­ac­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion. We may live in a “gold­en age of tele­vi­sion,” but left unchecked, the strain of this frag­men­ta­tion, as well as the finan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties imposed on writ­ers, could very well take the shine off of it.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Har­lan Ellison’s Won­der­ful Rant on Why Writ­ers Should Always Get Paid

Ray­mond Chan­dler: There’s No Art of the Screen­play in Hol­ly­wood

How Break­ing Bad Craft­ed the Per­fect TV Pilot: A Video Essay

10 Tips From Bil­ly Wilder on How to Write a Good Screen­play

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Google & Coursera Launch New Career Certificates That Prepare Students for Jobs in 2–6 Months: Business Intelligence & Advanced Data Analytics

Back in 2021, Google launched a series of online cours­es designed to help stu­dents earn a pro­fes­sion­al cer­tifi­cate in six months and also land an entry-lev­el job. In its orig­i­nal offer­ing, Google devel­oped cer­tifi­cate pro­grams in five pro­fes­sion­al areas: User Expe­ri­ence (UX) Design, Data Ana­lyt­ics, Project Man­age­ment, IT Sup­port and IT Automa­tion. Now, the tech com­pa­ny has added two new pro­grams to its line­up, each offered through Cours­er­a’s online edu­ca­tion plat­form.

First, the Google Advanced Data Ana­lyt­ics Pro­fes­sion­al Cer­tifi­cate builds on the orig­i­nal Data Ana­lyt­ics Cer­tifi­cate and “delves into machine learn­ing, pre­dic­tive mod­el­ing, and exper­i­men­tal design to col­lect and ana­lyze large amounts of data.” Fea­tur­ing sev­en cours­es in total, the pro­gram takes rough­ly six months to com­plete and aims to teach stu­dents how to 1) build regres­sion and machine learn­ing mod­els to ana­lyze and inter­pret data, 2) cre­ate data visu­al­iza­tions and apply sta­tis­ti­cal meth­ods to inves­ti­gate data, and 3) com­mu­ni­cate insights from data analy­sis to stake­hold­ers. Essen­tial­ly, it teach­es many tools of the trade need­ed to become a senior data ana­lyst or junior data sci­en­tist.

With the Google Busi­ness Intel­li­gence Pro­fes­sion­al Cer­tifi­cate, stu­dents can par­tic­i­pate in a short­er pro­gram that focus­es on trans­form­ing data into action­able insights for orga­ni­za­tions. Con­sist­ing of three cours­es (and last­ing about two months), the pro­gram helps stu­dents learn skills like data mod­el­ing, data visu­al­iza­tion, and dashboarding–skills that have wide applic­a­bil­i­ty in our data-dri­ven age.

Stu­dents can actu­al­ly take indi­vid­ual cours­es in these pro­fes­sion­al cer­tifi­cate pro­grams for free. How­ev­er, if you would like to receive the cer­tifi­cates, Cours­era charges $49 per month (after an ini­tial 7‑day free tri­al peri­od). That means that the Advanced Data Ana­lyt­ics Pro­fes­sion­al Cer­tifi­cate, if com­plet­ed in 6 months, will cost less than $300. And the Busi­ness Intel­li­gence Pro­fes­sion­al Cer­tifi­cate would run about $100. Once stu­dents com­plete a cer­tifi­cate, they can add the cre­den­tial to their LinkedIn pro­file, resume, or CV. Like­wise, they can con­nect with 150+ U.S. hir­ing orga­ni­za­tions in Google’s Employ­er Con­sor­tium. If you would like to learn more about Google Career Cer­tifi­cates, you can read this handy page on Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas’ web­site.

Update: Google has also added a new cer­tifi­cate pro­gram focused on Cyber­se­cu­ri­ty. Find out more about the pro­gram here.

You can sign up for the pro­grams by click­ing on the links in bold above. Each pro­gram has a 7‑day free tri­al.

Note: Open Cul­ture has a part­ner­ship with Cours­era. If read­ers enroll in cer­tain Cours­era cours­es and pro­grams, it helps sup­port Open Cul­ture.

by | Permalink | Make a Comment ( 34 ) |

Dying from Overwork: Disturbing Looks Inside Japan’s Karoshi and China’s “996” Work System

By most mea­sures, Japan boasts the high­est life expectan­cy in the world. But that rank­ing, of course, does­n’t mean that every Japan­ese per­son sees old age. Though the coun­try’s rate of vio­lent crime is low enough to be the envy of most of the world, its sui­cide rate isn’t, and it says even more that the Japan­ese lan­guage has a word that refers specif­i­cal­ly to death by over­work. I first encoun­tered it near­ly thir­ty years ago in Dil­bert com­ic strip. “In Japan, employ­ees occa­sion­al­ly work them­selves to death. It’s called karōshi,” says Dil­bert’s pointy-haired boss. “I don’t want that to hap­pen to any­body in my depart­ment. The trick is to take a break as soon as you see a bright light and hear dead rel­a­tives beck­on.”

You can see the phe­nom­e­non of karōshi exam­ined more seri­ous­ly in the short Now­ness video at the top of the post. In it, a series of Japan­ese salary­men (a Japan­ese Eng­lish term now well-known around the world) speak to the exhaust­ing and unceas­ing rig­ors of their every­day work sched­ules — and, in some cas­es, to the empti­ness of the homes that await them each night.

The CNBC seg­ment just above inves­ti­gates what can be done about such labor con­di­tions, which even in white-col­lar work­places con­tribute to the heart attacks, strokes, and oth­er imme­di­ate caus­es of deaths ulti­mate­ly ascribed to karōshi. In a grim irony, Japan has the low­est pro­duc­tiv­i­ty among the G7 nations: its peo­ple work hard, yet their com­pa­nies are hard­ly work­ing.

Ini­tia­tives to put a stop to the ill effects of over­work, up to and includ­ing karōshi, include manda­to­ry vaca­tion days and office lights that switch off auto­mat­i­cal­ly at 10:00 p.m. Among the lat­est is “Pre­mi­um Fri­day,” a pro­gram explained in the Vice video above. Devel­oped by Kei­dan­ren, Japan’s old­est busi­ness lob­by, it was ini­tial­ly received as “a direct response to karōshi,” but it has its ori­gins in mar­ket­ing. “We want­ed to cre­ate a nation­al event that bol­stered con­sump­tion,” says the direc­tor of Kei­dan­ren’s indus­tri­al pol­i­cy bureau. By that log­ic, it made good sense to let work­ers out ear­ly on Fri­days — let them out to shop. But Pre­mi­um Fri­day has yet to catch on in most Japan­ese enter­pris­es, aware as they are that Japan’s eco­nom­ic might no longer intim­i­dates the world.

The afore­men­tioned low pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, along with a rapid­ly aging and even con­tract­ing pop­u­la­tion, con­tributed to Japan’s loss of its posi­tion as the world’s sec­ond-largest econ­o­my. It was over­tak­en in 2011 by Chi­na, a coun­try with over­work prob­lems of its own. The Vice report above cov­ers the “996” sys­tem, which stands for work­ing from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m, six days a week. Preva­lent in Chi­nese tech com­pa­nies, it has been blamed for stress, ill­ness, and death among employ­ees. Laws lim­it­ing work­ing hours have thus far proven inef­fec­tive, or at least cir­cum­ventable. Cer­tain pun­dits nev­er stop insist­ing that the future is Chi­nese; if they’re right, all this ought to give pause to the work­ers of the world, East­ern and West­ern alike.

Relat­ed con­tent:

“Inemuri,” the Japan­ese Art of Tak­ing Pow­er Naps at Work, on the Sub­way, and Oth­er Pub­lic Places

Why 1999 Was the Year of Dystopi­an Office Movies: What The Matrix, Fight Club, Amer­i­can Beau­ty, Office Space & Being John Malkovich Shared in Com­mon

The Employ­ment: A Prize-Win­ning Ani­ma­tion About Why We’re So Dis­en­chant­ed with Work Today

What is the Secret to Liv­ing a Long, Hap­py & Cre­ative­ly Ful­fill­ing Life?: Dis­cov­er the Japan­ese Con­cept of Iki­gai

Charles Bukows­ki Rails Against 9‑to‑5 Jobs in a Bru­tal­ly Hon­est Let­ter (1986)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

More in this category... »
Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.