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Japanese work environment

japanese work environment, chinese work environment
Many both in and outside Japan share an image of the Japanese work environment that is based on a "simultaneous recruiting of new graduates" 新卒一括採用, Shinsotsu-Ikkatsu-Saiyō and "lifetime-employment" 終身雇用, Shūshin-Koyō" model used by large companies as well as a reputation of long work-hours and strong devotion to one's company This environment is said to reflect economic conditions beginning in the 1920s, when major corporations competing in the international marketplace began to accrue the same prestige that had traditionally been ascribed to the daimyo-retainer relationship of feudal Japan or government service in the Meiji Restoration At the very top, the most prestigious companies would recruit and retain the best workers by offering better benefits and truly lifetime job security By the 1960s, employment at a large prestigious company had become the goal of children of the new middle class, the pursuit of which required mobilization of family resources and great individual perseverance in order to achieve success in the fiercely competitive education system

Employees are expected to work hard and demonstrate loyalty to the firm, in exchange for some degree of job security and benefits, such as housing subsidies, good insurance, the use of recreation facilities, and bonuses and pensions Wages begin low, but seniority is rewarded, with promotions based on a combination of seniority and ability Leadership is not based on assertiveness or quick decision making but on the ability to create consensus, taking into account the needs of subordinates Surveys indicate continued preference for bosses who are demanding but show concern for workers' private lives over less-demanding bosses interested only in performance on the job This system rewards behavior demonstrating identification with the team effort, indicated by singing the company song, not taking all of one's vacation days, and sharing credit for accomplishments with the work group Pride in one's work is expressed through competition with other parallel sections in the company and between one's company and other companies in similar lines of business Thus, individuals are motivated to maintain wa harmony and participate in group activities, not only on the job but also in after-hours socializing nomikai The image of group loyalty, however, may be more a matter of ideology than practice, especially for people who do not make it to the top


  • 1 Smaller companies
  • 2 Working conditions
    • 21 Employment Security
    • 22 Impact on Japan's welfare state
  • 3 Karōshi
    • 31 Matsuri Takahashi's case 2016
  • 4 Future
  • 5 See also
  • 6 References
  • 7 External links

Smaller companiesedit

Not every worker enjoys the benefits of such employment practices and work environments Although 64% of households in 1985 depended on wages or salaries for most of their income, most of these workers were employed by small and medium-sized firms that could not afford the benefits or achieve the successes of the large companies, despite the best intentions of owners Even in the large corporations, distinctions between permanent and temporary employees made many workers, often women, ineligible for benefits and promotions These workers were also the first to be laid off in difficult business conditions Japan scholar Dorinne K Kondo compares the status of permanent and temporary workers with Bachnik's distinctions between permanent and temporary members of an "ie" 家, see Japanese family, creating degrees of inside and outside within a firm Traditions of entrepreneurship and of inheritance of the means of livelihood continued among merchants, artisans, farmers, and fishermen, still nearly 20% of the work force in 1985 These workers gave up security for autonomy and, when economically necessary, supplemented household income with wage employment Traditionally, such businesses use unpaid family labor, but wives or even husbands are likely to go off to work in factories or offices and leave spouses or retired parents to work the farm or mind the shop On the one hand, policies of decentralization provide factory jobs locally for families that farm part-time; on the other hand, unemployment created by deindustrialization affects rural as well as urban workers Whereas unemployment is low in Japan compared with other industrialized nations less than 3% through the late 1980s, an estimated 400,000 day laborers share none of the security or affluence enjoyed by those employees with lifetime-employment benefits

Japan's workforce grew by less than 1% per year in the 1970s and 1980s In 1991 it stood at 624% of the total population over fifteen years of age, a level little changed since 1970 Labour force participation differed within age and gender groupings and was similar to that in other industrialized nations in its relative distribution among primary, secondary, and tertiary industries The percentage of people employed in the primary sector agriculture, forestry, and fishing dropped from 174 in 1970 to 72 in 1990 and was projected to fall to 49 by 2000 The percentage of the Japanese labor force employed in heavy industry was 337 in 1970; it dropped to 331 in 1987 and was expected to be 277 in 2000 Light industry employed 47% of the work force in 1970 and 58% in 1987 The sector was expected to employ 62% by 2000 Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, well over 95% of all men between the ages of twenty-five and fifty-four were in the work force, but the proportion dropped sharply after the usual retirement age of fifty-five by 1990 the retirement age for most men had risen to sixty Women participated most actively in the job market in their early twenties and between the ages of 35 and 54 see Working women in Japan The unemployment rate 22% in 1992 was considerably lower than in the other industrialized nations, but it has about doubled since the collapse of the Japanese asset price bubble Youth unemployment is now a considerable problem in many regions

Wages vary by industry and type of employment Those earning the highest wages are permanent workers in firms having more than thirty employees and those workers in finance, real estate, public service, petroleum, publishing, and emerging high-technology industries earned the highest wages The lowest paid are those in textiles, apparel, furniture, and leather products industries The average farmer fares even worse, but might benefit from the appreciation of his land holdings as well as the powerful political ties to the Liberal Democratic Party

During the period of strong economic growth from 1960 to 1973, wage levels rose rapidly Nominal wages increased an average of 13% per year while real wages rose 7% each year Wage levels then stagnated as economic growth slowed Between 1973 and 1987 annual nominal and real wage increases dropped to 8% and 2%, respectively Wages began rising in 1987 as the value of the yen sharply appreciated In 1989 salaried workers receiving the highest average pay hikes over the previous year were newspaper employees 67%, followed by retail and wholesale workers 6% and hotel employees 57% Workers in the steel 25% and shipbuilding 42% industries fared worse The salaries of administrative and technical workers were about 20% higher than those of production workers In the late 1980s, with wages in manufacturing firms having 500 or more workers indexed at 100, enterprises with 100 to 499 employees were indexed at 79, those with thirty to ninety-nine employees at 64, and those with five to twenty-nine employees at 566 The gap between wages paid to secondary school and college graduates was slight but widened as the employees grew older; wages peaked at the age of fifty-five, when the former received only 60 to 80% of the wages of the latter

In the standard model, workers receive two fairly large bonuses as well as their regular salary, one mid-year and the other at year's end In 1988 workers in large companies received bonuses equivalent to their pay for 19 months while workers in the smallest firms gained bonuses equal to 12 months' pay In addition to bonuses, Japanese workers received a number of fringe benefits, such as living allowances, incentive payments, remuneration for special job conditions, allowances for good attendance, and cost-of-living allowances

Working conditionsedit

Working conditions vary from firm to firm On average, employees worked a forty-six-hour week in 1987; employees of most large corporations worked a modified five-day week with two Saturdays a month, while those in most small firms worked as much as six days each week In the face of mounting international criticism of excessive working hours in Japan, in January 1989 public agencies began closing two Saturdays a month Labor unions made reduced working hours an important part of their demands, and many larger firms responded in a positive manner Japanese working hours have been gradually decreasing12 In 1986 the average employee worked 2,097 hours in Japan, compared with 1,828 hours in the United States and 1,702 in France By 1995 the average annual hours in Japan had decreased to 1,884 hours and by 2009 to 1,714 hours3 The average Japanese worker is entitled to fifteen days of paid holidays per year but usually takes only seven days4verification needed

In recent years, dispatch "haken" contracts have been gradually becoming more popular among major companies Coupled with the decreasing size of the Japanese workforce, the average hours worked in a week has been on the rise at many medium to large sized companies In Tokyo, it is common for many employees to work twelve or more hours a day in certain industries, despite contracts claiming an 8-hour work day At many companies, there is a written-in overtime allowance per month in the contract Often the first 20–40 hours of overtime are "service overtime" and therefore unpaidverification needed

Employment Securityedit

Japanese employment protection is unique and dynamic compared to other nations5 Loyalty to one's company is paramount in the Japanese culture6 Many Japanese firms only promote from within, as a result individuals may stay with the same company for their entire life5 Japanese workers seek to invest and improve their company, while firms attempt to maintain a family atmosphere and look after employees7 Disappointing coworkers, calling in sick, and having a poor attitude are unacceptable Firms in Japan do everything in their power to ensure employment security and prevent laying off employees Firms attempts at prevention may include negotiating better deals with suppliers, requesting government subsidies, and eliminating overtime7 The relationship between employer and employee promotes employment security, work ethic, and willingness to work long hours8

Impact on Japan's welfare stateedit

Liberal and conservative philosophies combine to form Japan's welfare state9 The welfare state and working conditions are interconnected As a result of declining working hours over the years, less stress was put on the welfare state1 In 2012 the average Japanese citizen visited a medical facility twelve times, which is three times more doctors' visits than the average United States citizen10 This is partly due to low-cost medical expenses and partly due to increased stress from working conditions11 Stress has a huge negative impact physiological and mental factors for individuals12 Work hours vary between firms and company size In medium to large-sized companies hours have increased The stress from working over twelve hours a day is a contributing factor to Japanese citizens' frequent medical visits2 The majority of Japanese hospitals are privately owned alluding to the conservative influence While the government enforcing strict regulations and pricing on medical treatment alludes to the liberal aspect of their welfare state13 The more stress that is put on workers the more stress that will be put on the nation's welfare state


Main article: Karōshi

Karōshi is a term that refers to death by overworking in the Japanese workplace It is brought on by high amounts of stress from working 60 hours or more per week Kumarshiro, 1993: 9

Matsuri Takahashi's case 2016edit

In 2016, the suicide of an overworked young woman brought Japan's working environment into question once again Matsuri Takahashi, then 24, committed suicide on Christmas Day of 2015 after excessive overwork at Dentsu Inc, a major Japanese advertising agency14 Her suicide occurred only 8 months after she got her first full-time job at Dentsu, straight out of college Her SNS posts suggested that she was getting less than 2 hours of sleep per day before she committed suicide Her death was acknowledged as death related to work, known as "karoshi" in Japanese, by Mita Labor Standard Inspection Office in Tokyo According to the early reports by the labor standard inspection office, Matsuri Takahashi had more than 105 hours of monthly overtime According to the Japanese Labor Law, only 8 hours a day, or 40 hours a week, is allowed15 Indeed, if Japanese companies wish to extend their employee's working hours, they must first conclude special treaties to get acceptance from the government, per Labor Standards Act No3616 Within the limitation made by the treaty, working hours could be decided among employees, employers and labor unions However, unions in Japan usually agree with the decisions made by the corporation17

This case was especially focused by the public and over work death was again in public attention After hearing public reaction on this matter, labor standard inspection office had compulsory inspection to Dentsu, and revealed there was a cooperate norm to make sure its employees are recording less working time when they enter or exit the office18 This case was shocking because Matsuri Takahashi was not the first young employee to have committed suicide in Dentsu In 1991, young Dentsu employee killed himself in a similar circumstance19 After this incident, there was order from the Supreme Court in 2000 toward Dentsu to improve working conditions20 Matsuri Takahashi's case proved that Dentsu's corporate environment haven't changed since the death of its employees in 1991 Dentsu blamed Matsuri Takahashi's case partly on a serious lack of manpower in the growing divisions, such as internet advisement The CEO of Dentsu made an announcement to the public saying, "We should have come to grips with the situation by increasing the number of staff in those divisions"21 In Japan, lifetime employment still remains in numbers of companies and therefore, it is difficult to hire and fire people depending on the company's needs22 This CEO's quote indicates Japanese social structure which is stable but have low mobility which may cause stress toward employees

After her case, the Abe administration pitched a conference to improve working condition in Japan23 The first meeting was held in September, 2016 In addition to that, the Japanese government announced their first report about over-worked death According to this official announcement, 23% of the major companies in Japan have possibility of having illegal over-work24 The Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare, Yasuhisa Shiozaki, who is responsible for labor standard inspection office, emphasized the importance of strengthening these sectors25 Labor standard inspection office is now suffering from lack of manpower compared to the numbers of companies they need to investigate26 After facing criticism from the public, Labor Standards Act No36 now faces the possibility of amendment, for it has proven its incompetence Although many of the labor law are claimed to be amended, the social norm of Japan, including strong corporatism, are preventing these laws to be no more than self-imposed control and effort obligation


There is a growing shift in Japanese working conditions, due to both the government intervention as a result of declining birth rates and labor productivity, and companies competing for increasingly scarce numbers of workers due to a drop in the working-age population as a result of low birth rates Many Japanese companies are reducing work hours and improving working conditions, including by providing amenities such as sports facilities and gyms The Japanese government is pushing through a bill that would make it compulsory for employees to take a minimum of five days leave, and to ensure that high-income employees in certain sectors such as finance be paid according to performance rather than hours worked27

See alsoedit

  • Japan portal
  • Business portal
  • Simultaneous recruiting of new graduates
  • Japanese employment law
  • Japanese management culture
  • Salaryman


  1. ^ a b Japanese men working shorter hours: survey | Lifestyle | The Independent
  2. ^ a b Sayonara, salaryman | The Economist
  3. ^ Average annual hours actually worked per worker
  5. ^ a b "Job Security in Japan: Is Lifetime Employment on the Way Out | Brookings Institution" Brookings Retrieved 2016-12-03 
  6. ^ "Five things that keep Japanese people chained to their jobs" RocketNews24 2013-08-26 Retrieved 2016-12-03 
  7. ^ a b Tabuchi, Hiroko 2009-05-19 "Japan Pays a Price for Its Lifetime Jobs" The New York Times ISSN 0362-4331 Retrieved 2016-12-03 
  8. ^ Harden, Blaine 2008-07-13 "Japan's Killer Work Ethic" The Washington Post ISSN 0190-8286 Retrieved 2016-12-03 
  9. ^ Schwartz, Frank 2003 The State of Civil Society in Japan Cambridge University Press Cambridge ISBN 978-0521534628 
  10. ^ Squires, David; Anderson, Chloe "US Health Care from a Global Perspective" 
  11. ^ "LP - Karoshi" 2009-02-14 Archived from the original on 2009-02-14 Retrieved 2016-12-03 CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown link
  12. ^ Kawakami, Norito; Araki, Shunichi; Kawashima, Mieko; Masumoto, Takeshi; Hayashi, Takeshi 1997-01-01 "Effects of work-related stress reduction on depressive symptoms among Japanese blue-collar workers" Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health 23 1: 54–59 
  13. ^ Arnquist, Sarah "Health Care Abroad: Japan" Prescriptions Blog Retrieved 2016-12-03 
  14. ^ Wakatsuki, Emiko Jozuka and Yoko 2016-11-30 "Death by overwork: Pressure mounts on Japan to act" CNNMoney Retrieved 2016-12-03 
  15. ^ Ministry of Labor, Health and Welfare April 2016 "Labor Law in Japan" PDF Ministry of Labor, Health and Welfare Ministry of Labor, Health and Welfare 
  16. ^ "労働基準法" lawe-govgojp Retrieved 2016-12-03 
  17. ^ 脇田, 滋 2007 労働法を考える 日本: 新日本出版社 pp 46,112 
  18. ^ INC, SANKEI DIGITAL "【電通に強制捜査】異例の捜査、悪質性にメス 「働き方改革」背景に" 産経ニュース in Japanese Retrieved 2016-12-03 
  19. ^ "社説:電通を強制捜査 企業風土への一罰百戒 - 毎日新聞" 毎日新聞 in Japanese Retrieved 2016-12-03 
  20. ^ "裁判所 | 裁判例情報:検索結果詳細画面" wwwcourtsgojp Retrieved 2016-12-03 
  21. ^ "Suicide of young Dentsu employee recognized as due to overwork:The Asahi Shimbun" The Asahi Shimbun Retrieved 2016-12-03 
  22. ^ 日本経営学会 2006 日本型経営の動向と課題:経営学論集第76集 日本: 千倉書房 p 136 
  23. ^ "アングル:電通社員の過労死問題、残業規制を改革の俎上に - ロイターニュース - 経済:朝日新聞デジタル" 朝日新聞デジタル in Japanese Retrieved 2016-12-03 
  24. ^ "平成28年版過労死等防止対策白書(本文) |厚生労働省" wwwmhlwgojp Retrieved 2016-12-03 
  25. ^ INC, SANKEI DIGITAL "【電通女性社員自殺】電通子会社も立ち入り 塩崎恭久厚労相「過去にも自殺者。極めて遺憾なケース」" 産経ニュース in Japanese Retrieved 2016-12-03 
  26. ^ "労働基準監督官 実情と課題…雇用環境、厳しくチェック : yomiDr / ヨミドクター(読売新聞)" yomiDr / ヨミドクター(読売新聞) in Japanese Retrieved 2016-12-03 
  27. ^ Japan Inc says sayonara to culture of long working hours - FTcom
  •  This article incorporates public domain material from the Library of Congress Country Studies website http://lcweb2locgov/frd/cs/ - Japan

External linksedit

  • My Life in Corporate Japan
  • Politeness levels in business Japanese

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