Major trading firm lifts ban on side hustles—opening the door for employees to become YouTubers or startup founders

February 6, 2023, 2:07 PM UTC
A young woman works on a radio station, talking on a microphone in her home office
Side hustles are now an option for employees of Japanese trading giant Mitsui & Co.
Thana Prasongsin—Getty Images

Employees at major Japanese trading house Mitsui & Co. have just been given a new workplace perk: the freedom to pursue side hustles.

The publicly listed company, which is headquartered in Japan but has more than 100 offices across 63 countries, told Bloomberg it lifted its ban on employees earning money from other avenues.

“After implementing policies on remote work and flexible work hours, we believed the time was right to do even more, so employees can pursue both career development and new working styles,” Mitsui said in a statement, adding that additional jobs employees might pursue included working on a tech startup, becoming a YouTuber or artist, or coaching.  

A spokesperson for Mitsui did not immediately respond to Fortune’s request for comment.

Workers at the company would need approval from management before taking on a secondary job, the spokesperson said, noting that this would only be granted if bosses believed the additional revenue stream was coming from an activity that boosted the employee’s skillset.

According to Mitsui’s most recent annual report, the average Mitsui employee’s annual salary comes in at just over 14.8 million yen (around $112,000). The average employee is 42 years old and has served a tenure of more than 18 years, according to the document.

The move was reportedly made in an effort to attract younger workers amid Japan’s entrenched population decline.

Growth of the side hustle

Younger workers are far more likely to take an interest in pursuing a side hustle than their older colleagues, research has shown.

A recent survey of 35,000 workers around the world found that one-third of Gen Z workers had taken on, or were considering taking on, an additional source of income on top of their day job.

Just 17% of baby boomers said the same thing.  

However, this figure could be even higher in the U.S.—a poll of almost 5,000 American adults toward the end of last year found that 81% of Gen Z workers pursued or considered pursuing gig work to supplement their income last year, with 70% of all respondents saying they had chased or thought about starting a side hustle.

Many employers in Japan are wary of allowing their staff to take on second jobs because of the impact it could have on performance.

However, the Japanese government has made attempts to encourage companies not to prohibit additional jobs.

Last year, the government began asking companies that banned side hustles to explain their reasons for imposing such rules, with officials reportedly arguing that allowing second jobs would foster greater diversity in working practices.

According to recruitment giant Robert Walters, a 2016 study in Japan found that 69% of Japanese workers were interested in pursuing a side job—but only 18% of companies already permitted their staff to do so.

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