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Companies in Japan are offering workers with bad allergies subsidized trips to low-pollen destinations

Joshua Zitser   

Companies in Japan are offering workers with bad allergies subsidized trips to low-pollen destinations
  • Japanese companies are subsidizing 'tropical escape' programs for employees with severe hay fever.
  • The Washington Post reported on an employee who got $1,300 to work from a tropical island.

Some employers in Japan are offering "tropical escape" programs, where workers with bad seasonal allergies get subsidized trips to regions with lower pollen counts, according to The Washington Post.

One example cited by the Post came from the IT company Aisaac, which provides around $1,300 to employees to temporarily relocate to areas of Japan where hay fever symptoms are less severe.

Such programs are seen as a way to enhance worker productivity in Japan, where hay fever is much more prevalent than in the US.

Naoki Shigihara, a 20-year-old engineer who struggles to focus on work because of his hay fever, told the Post that Aisaac funded his remote-work trip to Okinawa, the tropical region in southern Japan.

"When I talk to people from other companies, they're all in agreement that it's a great idea, and many are jealous," he told the newspaper.

According to the Post, Aisaac allows employers to go anywhere with low pollen levels from mid-February to mid-April, Japan's peak hay fever season.

Okinawa is popular, but some go further afield to places like Hawaii and Guam, the newspaper said.

An Aisaac spokesperson told the Post that more than a third of its 185 employees used the program last year. It started in 2022 because its CEO has bad hay fever.

Aisaac did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

Similar initiatives are taking place at other companies. According to a government survey reviewed by The Japan News, around 20% of Japanese companies now allow employees to do remote work during hay fever season.

Some, like Aisaac, are also footing the bill, the Post said.

In Japan, hay fever is not only a public health concern but also a challenge to the economy.

According to a report by the country's Ministry of Environment, citing data from 2019, 42.5% of Japanese people suffer from hay fever.

This is significantly higher than the US, which has a rate of about 25%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It's particularly bad in Japan because of the presence of high-pollen cedar and cypress trees around Tokyo, planted as part of post-World War II reforestation policies, per The Japan Times.

In February, Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida described hay fever as a "national disease" that negatively impacts productivity.

Mitsuhiro Okano, a professor of otorhinolaryngology at Chiba Prefecture's International University of Health and Welfare Narita Hospital, told the Post that serious hay fever symptoms can reduce work efficiency by more than 30%.

"The decline in labor productivity has the biggest impact on the economy," Okano said in an interview with the newspaper.

According to Nikkei Asia, national efforts to mitigate the problem of hay fever include the felling of Japanese cedars, with the government aiming to halve pollen emissions within 30 years.

The government also plans to use AI to predict the spread of pollen from forests and it aims to increase the production of anti-allergy drugs, the financial publication said.

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