The Japanese employment system played a central role in the strong economic growth that Japan achieved in the second half of the 20th century. It was supported by three pillars: lifetime employment, seniority pay, and corporate-type unionism. To this, the fourth pillar was added a sense of community within the company based on vertical relationships, mutual obligations and consensual decision making.
The traditional employment system in Japan is still considered ideal by many people. However, in the current difficult economic environment in Japan, employment patterns are undergoing a major change. Even in large companies, which have been said to be the bastion of Japanese-style management, organizations that are faithful to tradition are becoming scarce.
It was common for Japanese companies to hire workers as soon as they graduated from school or college, without seeking job-specific skills, although basic skills were essential. This was due to the rapid establishment of mass production in Japanese companies after World War II. To develop their employees, companies are investing in hands-on experience, training newcomers and in-house professional training. Naturally, it will take several years for new employees to become more efficient. Instead, employees are expected to remain with the same employer until they reach retirement age (usually 60). Upon retirement, you will receive a lump sum and a company pension.
If business is sluggish, permanent employees will only be laid off as a last resort.
Raises and promotions are mainly determined by the employee’s age and length of service with the company. The seniority pay system was devised as a means of guaranteeing employment stability for all employees throughout their career in the company, and is closely linked to lifetime employment as a characteristic of Japanese management.
Japanese companies typically offer fringe benefits that allow people to enjoy recreational and leisure activities such as athletic events and employee travel. Facilities are available for sports, reading, board games and other hobbies. Other benefits include special allowances, company housing, dormitories for single employees, and various health and welfare benefits, in addition to the basic salary.
Within the framework of the lifetime employment system, workers have generally believed that showing loyalty to the company is in the best interest of themselves and their families. In addition to this, the workers have prioritized the company over their families and personal lives. Transfers to subsidiaries are common, and it’s not uncommon for families to leave their families behind because they want to remain in the community and not interfere with their children’s education.
However, even during the period of high economic growth in the postwar decades, this system was not universal and applied mainly to employees and civil servants of large companies. Workers in small businesses, on the other hand, rarely received the same level of benefits or job security.
The division of labour follows a similar pattern to that of other developed countries. The number of people employed in agriculture and other primary industries declined, while the number of people employed in services and other tertiary industries increased.
The government has declared that reducing working hours is of utmost importance in order to improve the quality of life of the Japanese people. Amendments to the Labor Standards Law, the introduction of a five-day work week, and measures such as allowing substitute holidays when public holidays fall on Sundays have contributed to the reduction of working hours. In addition, the government has been making further preparations in recent years, including amendments to the law.
We have improved the rate of taking vacations, promoted shorter working hours, and become more flexible in working hours.
Until a while ago, the unemployment rate in Japan was very low and stable. It gradually rises and then hovers around 4-5%. Foreigners have often commented that this unemployment rate is still lower than in many other countries. However, the way the Japanese calculate the unemployment rate should be considered as follows.
You have to consider that Japan’s unemployment rate does not include people who have looked for a job but given up. If these people are included, Japan’s unemployment rate jumps to more than 10%.
College students usually start looking for a job before they reach their senior year. First, look at company brochures and attend job fairs to choose the company you want to work for. They will look at your resume and work history, take an exam and make a selection. After a few exams and interviews, the company decides on a tentative job offer. In the past, students received numerous letters from companies that wanted to hire them. Many students were able to choose the company of their choice. However, due to the recent recession, students are receiving fewer and fewer letters from companies, and fewer and fewer companies are willing to give them the opportunity to interview. Some popular companies choose a single employee from thousands of applicants. Some students postpone graduation to the following year in the hope that this situation will improve. This period has come to be called the “super ice age of recruitment.” Partly because of this, the percentage of recent college graduates in casual employment seems to have increased in recent years.