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“Work like mud for the first 10 years after joining a company.” Does this go to all IT companies?

7, 30. 2008

   Working for IT companies is so hard that there is such an expression as the "IT laborer." Adding fuel to the fire, an IT industry official remarked: "You must work like mud (work like a horse) for the first 10 years after joining a company." This caused a heated exchange of pros and cons on the internet. Is it true that employees are forced to "work like mud" at IT companies?

"Concept itself seems to represent a statement that is now obsolete."

So it is true they work like horses at IT firms
So it is true they work like horses at IT firms

   Koji Nishigaki, director of the Information-Technology Promotion Agency (IPA), which supports the nation's IT strategy, in his address at an IT industry event held on May 28, 2008, introduced the statement made by Uichiro Niwa, chairman of ITOCHU Corp. The statement said, "(Those who entered our company) are expected to work like mud for the first 10 years. (You) are then expected to study hardest during the next 10 years." The introduction of the statement at the event which was attended by students was reacted with a comment on the internet media, "@IT," which said, "'Work Like Mud for 10 Years.' 'It's Impossible' - Students and business managers discuss again this year." The article went on to say:

"(Nishigaki) said, '(Workers) are expected to think of the time axis when they do their jobs. As a programmer works his/her way up to become an engineer, and then a project manager, the job can be understood gradually.' As a reaction to this Mr. Taguchi (moderator at the event) asked the students, 'Those who think it is possible to work like mud for 10 years, please raise your hands.' There was no single student who raised hand."

   The statement, "Work like mud for 10 years," was strongly reacted on the internet, and various opinions were expressed on blogs. Some of them were:

"The concept itself seems to represent an outdated statement,"
"It feels like he is saying something reasonable. I think that the difference between what the big companies think and what the students are thinking was clearly indicated,"

and

"It had the nuance of supporting what might come after the 10 years. Maybe that is why every one understood it."

   Economist Nobuo Ikeda also touched on the statement on his own blog and said, "The 'apprenticeship-type carrier path' where they devote themselves to the company by doing the work like 'mapping of the floor' while they are young and they do easy managerial work in return when they get old will remain to exit forever without change. This is an incentive system that can stand on the preposition of their lifetime employment until they reach the age of mandatory retirement." He further criticized by saying it is a "village-like (old and tiny community) concept."

   Inquired by J-CAST News, a person in charge of public relations at the IPA said that it is the fact that the remark that "work like mud for 10 years" was made. But he explained that the nuance intended by the remark was that every one must study hard as it is generally said there are the lowest rungs of ladder for every job at the beginning. Nishigaki himself is understood to have said that the press reports did not convey what he really meant. But the true condition of the IT industry and the general sense of "work like mud" seemed to have interacted with each other for a combined effect to call for the strong reaction.

   According to an article entitled "'Are workers really forced to work like mud at IT companies' - an event at Todai (University of Tokyo)" in the "@IT" of the July 14, 2008 issue, in the meantime, many of the IT industry officials who attended the event held at Todai expressed opinions that "It is not always true that the workers at IT companies are forced to work like mud."

"He worked to killing himself." This sort of testimony is heard all the time.

"No application is received when positions for programmers are offered. Having asked staffing companies, it was found out that the position of a programmer does not give good image. Other companies also all want to hire programmers, but no one wants to be a programmer…"

   This is a confession that came from an official of a certain IT company. It seems to be the fact that IT-related works always carry with them the image that they are "hard works." In response to reports that the IT industry is suffering from personnel shortages, the IPA conducted a survey and, according to its results announced in January 2008, 46.5% of IT companies replied that works seem to give bad image to graduates only if the works are related to the IT industry. This shows that the matter is serious.

   A programmer who said he has the experience of "working like mud" said:

"The smaller the company the harder the work. It may be accepted that IT companies are operated efficiently. But system-related works are so monotonous that the workers are called 'IT laborer.' I know of someone who suffered from depression at the company I used to word for."

   In January 2008, a man who used to work as a programmer for a major IT company committed suicide. He was found out to have suffered from depression, and his death was officially recognized as work-related "suicide resulting from overwork." "I am working for an IT company… There was some one who committed suicide." This is a sample of confession posted on internet pages in reality, showing that hard works at IT companies are subjects much talked about. Whether "working like mud" is true or not depends on the companies, but it seems to be the fact that there are engineers placed on serious spots.

   The founder of an IT company listed on a stock exchange noted from a different angle, saying:

"Working like mud must depend on the amount of pay. No one would work for 24 hours on condition that the pay would be 10 million yen if the company is listed. But I think it will make a difference if the figure is 100 million yen or 200 million yen."

   Of course, the stock market is sluggish lately, and a less number of companies are listed. The amounts of pays workers are receiving are also dwindling. It must be the case, then, that the number of people who are willing to "work like mud" is also decreasing.

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