《 今回のworkshop 》
○【後半】：Reforming the employment system in Japan
後半は”Reforming the employment system in Japan”というタイトルでディスカッションを行います。
grow up・・・become an adult
be used to (doing) something・・・be familiar with (doing) something
save up・・・to keep money so that you can use it later
pick something up・・・take or lift something off the floor (or a table,etc.)
get in touch with・・・contact someone by phone,fax,e-mail,etc.
give something back・・・return something (to someone)
be sick・・・be unwell ; have a bad health
be healthy・・・be well ; have a good health
give something away・・・give something as a gift
have a heart of gold・・・have a kind and generous character
Have you ever picked up or dropped a wallet or something expensive ?
What did you do at that time ?
Reforming the employment system in Japan
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing one of his policies of reforming the way of working of Japanese employees.
Today, please discuss the employment system in Japan and the way of working in your company.
1. Regarding the employment system in Japan
How do you think the employment system in Japan is different from that of other countries?
In which point, do you think the Japanese system is superior to that of other countries? And vice versa?
Lifetime employment and the wage system based on seniority are unique employment systems in Japan. Are you for these systems? Why / Why not?
Do you think the Japanese government should change these systems to make Japan more competitive?
Prime Minister Abe is trying to reduce the wage gap between regular and non-regular employees to achieve “equal pay for equal work”.
Please share your opinions about this policy.
– Why do you think he promotes it? What is its purpose?
– Do you think it will be achieved?
– How do you think it will affect the Japanese economy?
To make Japan more competitive (to boost its economy), how do you think the government should do for the employment system?
Please share your ideas about the policies you think the government should take.
2. Regarding the way of working in your company
Do you like your way of working in your company/office? Why / Why not?
– If you are not an employee, please share the information of your previous company or your family members’ and friends’ company.
– If you have worked at more than one company before, please compare each companies and share your ideas.
How do you think your (your acquaintance’s) company should do to make its employees’ way of working better?
If you have heard of any good measures to improve the employees’ way of working at some companies, please share it.
Should Japan’s employment model change?
Should Japan’s employment model change?
A government panel has begun deliberations on how to reform working practices, including such topics as redressing long working hours and realizing equal pay for equal work. If the panel moves ahead with such reforms, it will upset the conventional Japanese employment system, which includes lifetime employment and pay based on seniority. What kind of employment model should Japan have? To seek an answer to this question, we asked the opinions of two experts, one opposed to the current system and the other in favor.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 29, 2016)
Employees’ sense of unity with their company is an asset
Tadao Kagono / Distinguished visiting professor at Konan University
- Graduated from Kobe University’s School of Business Administration. Took up his current position after working as a professor at Kobe University. Publications include “Nihongata Keiei no Fukken” (The rehabilitation of the Japanese management model) and “Keiei no Seishin” (The spirit of enterprise). He is 68.
Employees of Japanese companies feel that they and their companies are one. When a deadline approaches, they spontaneously work overtime. They accept transfers to other locations and to other roles.
The sphere of work that employees perform even though it is not written into their contract, such as overtime, is called the “zone of indifference” in management theory. The broad scope of this zone is a distinctive feature of Japan’s corporate employees. It’s like salaries are paid in exchange not for working hours but for this zone of indifference.
The first person to point to lifetime employment as a Japanese employment practice was James Abegglen, an American business theorist. What he was speaking of was not the length of the employment period but rather a “lifetime commitment.” In other words, “a sense of loyalty to and unity with the company throughout one’s life.” This is both a distinctive characteristic and a strength of the Japanese employment model.
In Japan, suggestions for business improvement come from employees working on the front line. This is because they have a sense of commitment.
The United States has a job model of employment, under which the content and scope of each position are clearly defined. Equal pay for equal work is practicable under this system. Japan and the United States have different cultures and different employment patterns. Labor and employment are phenomena that are culturally dependent, and so the chances of successfully introducing a system from another country are almost nil.
It is unreasonable to push ahead with equal pay for equal work in Japan. In general, those employed on a part-time or irregular basis have little sense of commitment, and their zone of indifference is narrow. If all are to be employed under the same conditions, regular employees will probably abandon their commitment to the company. Will Japanese companies not lose their assets as a result?
Working hard also important
From the 1980s to 1990s, Japanese companies were highly competitive, and their employees were criticized by the United States and European countries for working too hard. As a result, working hours were reduced.
The Japanese at that time were arrogant. They believed that they could win even without working. Beginning in the 2000s, Japan became less competitive.
Has there been any other country in the course of history that told its citizens, “Do not work”? Is it not the role of the government to tell its citizens to work? I questioned this approach, then and now.
Japanese companies are currently competing with China and South Korea. How can we possibly compete with these countries if we limit working hours?
It is important that people with a sense of responsibility toward their jobs “work hard.” The problem is when this is forced, but those who choose to work of their own free will should be allowed to work hard.
However, in my opinion, the belief that working long hours is the barometer of one’s contribution to the company is starting to change. It is fine for unproductive overtime to disappear, such as the custom of “working late together,” meaning that subordinates cannot go home while their superior remains at work.
Good things about Japan
Employment patterns will probably diversify.
There are people who care for children or the elderly, making overtime work or transfer to another location difficult. There is room to make creative adjustments and come up with a system of limited regular employment, under which working hours and so on are kept within limits.
Japanese companies have rewarded their employees by giving them positions at various levels of management, but it would also be possible to reward those for whom assuming such positions would be difficult through compensation for taking on specialist roles.
The paths to regular employment for those employed on irregular contracts should also be expanded.
Modes of working that entail a low level of commitment to the company but result in a significant contribution are also likely to appear.
However, I do not believe that the government should constrain the actions of companies by reforming working practices. If the government makes it compulsory to pay regular and irregular employees the same wages, the level of pay will rise and there is a danger that companies may move offshore.
Reforming working practices should be carried out with caution, so as not to kill that which is good about Japanese companies.
Increase the number of employees working in clearly defined fields
Yuki Honda / Professor at the University of Tokyo
- Completed coursework for a doctoral course at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Education without receiving a degree. Publications include “Wakamono to Shigoto” (Young people and work) and “Mojireru Shakai” (Warped society). She is 51.
At first glance, the job market for young people appears to have improved. The ratio of job offers to job seekers and the employment rate for new graduates are both rising.
On the other hand, the proportion of irregular employees is also increasing, especially among women. The long-standing pay gap between male regular employees and women or those on irregular contracts continues. The number of employees working for 10 hours or more on weekdays also is rising.
In a healthy job market, when job offers increase, employment conditions should improve. Why then are they worsening? It is because actual working hours are often longer than those specified in job offers, and the pay is lower. It is not possible to choose a job on the basis of accurate information. With this structure, the market economy does not function.
Employment is based not on a “job model” with recruitment aimed at clearly specified tasks, as in the West, but rather on a “membership model” in which the employee becomes a constituent member of an organization. This is a fundamental problem. In the membership model, neither the tasks entailed nor the working hours are defined. Rather, once a person becomes a member of the company, that employee must be ready to take on any role.
This membership model became widespread in Japan during the period of rapid economic growth. It suits companies well, as they can tell employees to do all manner of tasks. At the same time, employees were guaranteed stable employment until they retired, in return for their loyalty to the company.
Long working hours
However, the membership model has now become a mechanism to squeeze out contributions from employees from every possible angle.
Redressing long working hours has been raised as one of the aspects of reforming working practices. But under the membership model, with its presumption that employees are ready to do anything and everything, long working hours will not disappear. Nor can the principle of equal pay for equal work be put into practice under this model, in which job tasks are not clearly defined. Until there is a more substantial segment of the regular workforce with clearly defined responsibilities, employed in the job model, and until it becomes possible to compare the content of their work with that of irregular employees, this principle cannot be introduced.
It is necessary to expand the job model of employment, beginning with the types of job for which this model is possible. This will clarify the salary rates payable for a particular job, and thus make the labor market more transparent.
Japan has a falling birthrate and an aging population, resulting in a shrinking labor force. In this situation, women, the elderly, people with disabilities and those with responsibilities as caregivers for children or the elderly will also need to work.
To make this happen, methods to limit the work of regular employees need to be introduced. There are three types of limited regular employment:
1. Limited hours.
2. Limited geographical area (the area within which employees can be transferred).
3. Limited type of job.
Among these, it is particularly important to limit the type of job by delineating a prescribed area of work and putting specialist skills to use, which is to say a method of working that uses the job model.
Work based on the job model already exists in Japan. For example, nurses or pharmacists are employed using this model. Some companies are introducing the job model for inventory control and other roles in their supply chain management. It should also be possible to switch to the job model in such fields as accounting or online PR and advertising.
In this model, the pay scales for jobs are based on the skills required for that particular job. The higher the level of skills and qualifications, the higher the pay. This is the international standard.
Slow job hunting process
The job hunting process for new graduates is currently extremely cumbersome. Those seeking jobs undertake internships, and often have many interviews. Selection criteria are not clear, so students are left with no recourse but to promote their “effort” in student activities or engage in part-time jobs. No other country has a job hunting process that entails such a waste of effort.
If employment is based on a job model, with clearly defined tasks for each position, the requirements of that position will become unambiguous. It will be unnecessary to spend so much time on the recruitment process. The adoption of a job model of employment, targeting those with skills in a specified field, should be attempted.
Both interviews were conducted by Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Writer Yusuke Saito.