3, 02. 2007
Even if you have some dissatisfaction in the company, you are able to pass the mediocre life. It could be said that in return to the loyalty to the company you could get seniority and life-long employment. Without doubt, that system supported economic prosperity of Japan after World War 2.
In 1999, a middle managerial man with a knife stormed into the president room of a leading tire maker Bridgestone. The president was a trouble- shooter of labor strife at their affiliate Fire Stone in the United States and came back home with much praise. The man could not stand the president’s way of thinking that favored the American style management with performance-based pay and restructuring of the company.
“Working through the same organization” could be highly evaluated
Full view of Marunouchi business district, Tokyo. Most representative companies of Japan still adopt the seniority system.
The man asked the president, “Hasn’t Bridgestone been the company that cherished employees?” After realizing that his request would not been well received, he killed himself stabbing the knife into his berry in front of the president. This incident was supposed to occur as the management-labor understanding of seniority and life-long employment system began to be shaken.
I was surprised to have this experience in America. When I said, “ I have been working for a newspaper company for twenty five years,” I got a response with a sympathy, “Didn't you have better chances for changing jobs?”
Stepping up the career with changing of jobs is an American way of realizing oneself. While in Japan, Working through the same organization" has been regarded as a virtue.
Nowadays, we can see young people change their jobs quite often. Although changing jobs with positive thinking might be well esteemed, public at large is not so lenient to job-hopping. It is often said, "Changing jobs easily might be a proof of lacking of patience," or "People accustomed to changing jobs won't be trusted."
Life-long employment and seniority were fixed after World War 2
It is often said that wage system based on life-long employment and seniority is a characteristic of Japanese labor market. But it was after World War 2 when this system took deep root in Japan.
Main reasons for that are as follows:
1.Management was forced to secure scarce employees during the fast economic expansion period after the war.
2.The center of the Japanese industry moved from rural areas to urban districts and number of salaried workers increased rapidly
3.Because of the collapse of enlarged family system and the Emperor-centered system of Japan, many people sought the sense of belonging to the workplace.
Post-war Japan aimed at rebirth through industrialization from the destruction. Workforce was moved from rural areas to urban districts and education system was up-graded. After graduation from universities, people were trained as administrative, sales stuff and engineers. Enlarged middle-class population became consumers who consumed mass-produced merchandises.