Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Japanese society resisting change

My Japanese blog is getting even more popular these days. However, it doesn't make me so happy. The more I think about Japanese society, the more despair I feel.

Many Japanese companies still force employees to work for long hours and are even reluctant to pay for their overtime. This is obviously an illegal act but the Japanese society is somehow lenient with it.

Today I discovered a surprising fact. According to this paper, working hours of Japanese workers have not changed at all during the period between 1986 and 2006. This report's conclusion apparently contradicts Japanese government's official statistics, which show a significant decrease(more than 15%) in working hours in Japan. This mystery stems from the existence of unpaid overtime work, also known as "complimentary overtime work(sabisu zangyo)". Employers report their employees' working hours based on the amount they have actually paid to them. However, it is an open secret that employees are "not allowed to ask" their employers for overtime payment to the full extent. Therefore, the governmental statistics inevitably show a lower number than the actual one in working hours. How unfair.

Now we know that the working hours are about the same between 20 years ago and now. Here, we need to pay attention to the fact that Japanese economy was enjoying such a prosperity so called "bubble economy" 20 years ago. People were much better off then than now. Yet Japanese people work as long hours now as 20 years ago. It is puzzling.

The conclusion is rather simple: after all, Japanese companies have failed to improve labor productivity miserably. Or maybe they even have not tried to do so in the first place. For many Japanese people, labor is supposed to be cheap or even free just as the name "sabisu zangyo(complimentary overtime work)". They never really made an serious effort to save labor cost by restructuring the workflow. Employers simply chose not to pay overtime time payment.

You might wonder why Japanese employees are still as obedient as sheep after this kind of unfair treatments. The answer can be found by looking at a unique feature of Japanese labor market. It's very difficult for Japanese workers to switch workplace. It is still considered a social stigma. Working long hours is thought to be a sign of diligence. Innovating a new way to save labor time is not really encouraged and it is sometimes labeled as a form of laziness.

Japan's economic stagnation is blamed on Japanese companies' own behavior. Japan has been defeated by itself. But they are yet aware of it.

It's alright. That's THEIR way. They go their way, while I go my way. It's them who are ultimately responsible for their own acts. I will go my own way on my own risk. Nobody can prevent me from doing so.

1 comment:

pico said...

This is a comment related to your blog on the immigration recently posted. I do not want to get involved in meaningless chicken fights so I write here instead since hysterical people will not likely check this site.

I found interesting articles on Japanese immigration so please check these. These articles also have other links.

The Coming Internationalization: Can Japan assimilate its immigrants?

By Arudou Debito

The Future of Japan’s Immigration Policy: a battle diary

By Sakanaka Hidenori

Introduction by Andrew Taylor and David McNeill

Also here are discussions on immigration associated with an article in Economist.
The article itself is no longer available.

Immigration problems viewed by an American

Fixing Europe’s Immigration Problem
Without reforms across the European Union, the Italian race riots will prove only a hint of the darkness to come.