New workers confront 'use-and-discard' employers

TOKYO —

At the end of October, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare issued statistics on the percentage of new corporate hirees who had resigned within three years of their joining their companies. The figure for all industries was 28.8%, and was especially high in education-supporting businesses (48.8%), hotel and food and beverage services industries (48.5%) and retailing (35.8%).

What is responsible for this exodus?

“I suppose that for students with little social experience, being put in direct contact with customers making complaints creates more pressure than they anticipated,” an unnamed employment consultant tells Shukan Gendai (Dec 1).

“For example, in the case of McDonald’s Japan, within six months to a year after being hired, they might be working as an outlet manager. So even before they’ve had time to learn the ins and outs of the job, they’re in a position where they have to give orders to workers of their own generation or to part-timers, which puts them under heavy stress, and which leads to many resignations.”

And sometimes, the job’s just not worth it.

One 25-year-old describes his experience at a real estate firm, which he left two years after joining.

“I worked from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., with just five or six days off in a month,” he relates bitterly. “There was no payment of overtime, and I only got 30,000 yen a month stipend for sales. The company had no real method of training newcomers ... I’d have to distribute 2,000 flyers per day. My seniors picked on me too.

“Out of nine newcomers including myself at the office, three left the first year, and more than half were gone by the third year.”

According to Ryohei Kawamura of POSSE Jimusho, an NPO that deals with labor problems, due to the effects of the ongoing “employment ice age,” today’s students are inclined to seek stable employment.

“It’s not that the number of students quitting their jobs within three years has been increasing,” Kawamura asserts. “I think that many people who enter such companies do so with the intention of staying for a long time.”

But the employer side, increasingly, has less interest in pursuing the lifetime employment system.

“Japanese workers have not changed from being selfless and self-sacrificing,” says Keiichiro Hamaguchi, an employee at LPT, an independent labor research office. “But the long-term or career employment system is vanishing. In their efforts to stand up to intense global competition, companies have been adopting a system that no longer presumes long-term employment by workers.”

Publisher Toyo Keizai produces an annual book that contains information on the number of new staffers and the number still with the company, and the percentage of new hirees who have left the company. (A disclaimer notes that the data is not specifically utilized to rank companies with high rates for resignation of new hirees.)

For instance, in 2009, Hotel Okura Tokyo hired 96 new staff, of whom 47 resigned within three years, giving 49.0%. Other companies with high rates of resignations included McDonald’s Japan (45.0%); Kinki Nippon Tourist (42.9%); dining portal Gurunavi (39.2%); Matsuya Foods (37.9%); Mini-Stop (35.2%); and Book-Off Corporation (35.1%).

So then how can a student job seeker spot which types of employers to avoid? According to the aforementioned Kawamura, one type would be “add and subtract” companies such as in the IT and apparel sectors, which recruit actively on campuses, but which often urge workers to leave. A second is demanding “work them until they drop” employers, often found in such sectors as beverage service industries, apparel, personal computer schools and others.

The third is the so-called “collapse of order” type, in which incidents of cruelty leading to fatal injuries sometimes occur—such as in senior care facilities—which are also understaffed due to low remuneration.

Since only 62% of university job seekers from the 2011 graduating class found jobs, it means nearly 40% did not. And in the current “buyer’s market,” more companies have taken a callous “use-and-discard” approach to their new human resources.

Hosei University associate professor Mitsuko Uenishi advises candidates to shun “brand name” companies—which in any case are inundated with applicants. “All the job hunting will just wear you down and hurt your self-esteem,” she says. “Instead, since there are excellent small and medium-sized companies that are hiring, graduates ought to consider applying to them.”

Japan Today

  • 1

    T-Mack

    Companies have been doing this for years, this is nothing new. The military also does this, to avoid retirement and medical cost...

  • 0

    Iowan

    I do not understand the Japanese conviction of "I'm committed to this company for the rest of my life AND can never leave it."

    Seems that 28% of Japanese agree with me.

  • 0

    Seawolf

    IN Okura's case, it's all together: Brand name (for Japanese), work-till-drop, an environment that relies a lot on manuals and paper work, plus the "Senpai-system" where you are to do whatever your senior tells you, even during off-time, like joining them for karaoke etc.

  • -6

    gaijinfo

    My experience that Japanese workers are pretty soft, and the newbies are used to a cushy life in Uni. If I were an employee, I'd dispose of them to. If they were valuable and helped a companies bottom line, of course you'd keep them.

  • 1

    omicron

    What happened to the education-supporting businesses? Does include dispatch companies for ALTs? How come nothing was mentioned here?

  • 5

    gogogo

    Maybe Japan companies needs to not have 3 hour meetings, get to the point and pay overtime

  • 5

    ubikwit

    Japanese companies must be made to follows the labor Standards Act. The problem is, even when employees realize they are being exploited in an illegal manner, it seems they seldom file a complaint.

    And some industries have practically institutionalized unpaid overtime, which is illegal.

  • 0

    kaminarioyaji

    Ubikwit -

    Unfortunately, and rather incomprehensibly, labour standards bureaus are only open during office hours, Mon-Fri, which is somewhat useless to many of the workers noted in the article. But you're right of course, many Japanese are reluctant to "rock the boat" even when they are being wholesale exploited, when really, it's the unscrupulous employers that have the "Wa" out of whack. Any complaints files by downtrodden workers should be seen as an attempt to redress said "Wa".

    some industries have practically institutionalized unpaid overtime, which is illegal.

    One thing to remember about Japan - Nothing's illegal unless you get caught out doing it.

  • 1

    Jessica Marie Sato

    'use and discard'... I have been working with the same company for 4 years and I am at my wits end. I was promoted, and harassed daily by my boss. 'You are a failure', is her best line. I gave my notice and was begged to stay. I stayed and was demoted (of course). THe girl who was promoted to my position quit (haha) and now no one has that position but occasionally when things go wrong, my boss tells me it is my responsibility because I am in that position. I have no idea what she is talking about. She just loves pointing her finger at me.

    This year has been a living hell of my boss literally picking on me to punish me for my near disloyalty to the company. I have never been so mentally abused. I haven't told her I am quitting yet. She tells me that I am going to be promoted next year again. But I have given up.

  • 3

    gogogo

    @Jessica Marie Sato: You boss is the problem, she knows you are smarter than her because when you tried to quit she kept you, she needs you, I would distance yourself from her as she is obviously taking your credit an blaming anything bad on you.

    I would put everything in writing, if she blaims you for something that is not your job, write a letter to her saying this is not your job so that you have written proof you have talked to her about this.

  • 0

    nandakandamanda

    Disappointed in this article as omicron mentions above. Read the whole thing in anticipation of the 'education-supporting' part but it never appeared. :sigh:

    Anyway my employer (educational) has done the market research, discovered how to discard new employees by creating clever short-term contracts - unsettling for employees - and mounted the unscrupulous personnel management bandwagon. No more lifetime employment! Freedom to fire!

  • -2

    Serrano

    These disgruntled workers should learn how to play baseball or golf on a professional level if they're not satisfied with their salaries and working conditions. Of course there are only so many professional baseball player/golfer positions open... oh well, you are worth whatever someone is willing to pay you, I learnt this awhile ago.

  • 3

    megosaa

    what can i say.. you pay peanuts you get monkeys...

  • -3

    semperfi

    Japan's labour laws a neolithic. . . . .Japan touts itself as a "DEVELOPED " nation . . .then it really needs to revamp labour legislation providing better protection for the worker and ensuring the workplace offers equal opportunity.

  • 0

    semperfi

    megosa : what can i say.. you pay peanuts you get monkeys............................................... THAT is NOT funny. . . . .considering workers in most non devloped countries in the Asian, African, So American, Central American areas - not to mention the Philippines are payed "peanuts" .............................What is surprising is that J workers - ----in spite of the gruelling conditions they work under here in Japan ---- come out with such perfect, high quality state-of-art technology !!!...................Imagine what would happen , if they had work places that offered proper pay, better worker hours and benefits !!!!!??????

  • -1

    realmind

    Jessica Marie SatoNov. 21, 2012 - 08:10AM JST

    'use and discard'... I have been working with the same company for 4 years and I am at my wits end. I was promoted, and harassed daily by my boss. 'You are a failure', is her best line

    I also have the same experience with company in Japan. The company is PROMESA corp, Kashiwa Chiba.. And the guy was Harumi Hanawa. This is a English teaching school, any one better you keep away from them, if you need any peace and health for your future. Dam sh** woman boss.

  • 0

    makingsense

    All companies create hoops for employees to jump through to prove their worth, when the hoops are overwhelming and unreasonable then that's when employees begin to separate their needs from the needs of the company. Core issue is "abuse," towards workers and between workers. Therefore, the "use and discard" principle employed by many companies is an abusive practice. Some folks are so entrenched with the abusive practice that they accept it as a norm, like part of the job "it is, what it is" which I think is pathetic and fatalistic leading to the cycle of abuse.

  • -1

    volland

    What is the news in this?

    "What is responsible for this exodus?"

    What kind of a question is this? All this tells us is: "Welcome to the 21.Century, Japan!" and it gives a glimpse of the future in this country will looks like. Get used to it.....

  • 1

    kcjapan

    "All this tells us is: "Welcome to the 21.Century, Japan!" and it gives a glimpse of the future in this country will looks like. Get used to it....." - volland Nov. 23, 2012 - 07:43AM JST

    Seems more like an organizational illness. Getting used to abuse is the Stockholm Syndrome, a condition experienced by some people who have been held as hostages for an extended time in which they begin to identify with and feel sympathetic toward their captors.

    If mindless acceptance is the best a society can muster they deserve whatever form of suppression they get.

    Far from “getting used to it” what needs be done is these abusive behaviors need public examination. That examination would be good for those who suffer from an abuser and necessary for the correction of cruelty in the work place.

    Simply accepting abuse as a necessary condition in the work place is like the doctor who ignores the symptoms of disease as the patient dies on the table.

    It is more frightening that anyone would suggest ignoring systemic abuse of fellow human beings as a necessary and acceptable behavior. Why not apply the same logic to a school system that abuses children as a necessary and required form of instruction? Or, maybe kindness and courtesy is too much to hope for?

  • 0

    waltery

    The conditions are common and situation is responsible for the declining birth rate working all hours and not vacation and made to feel like scum if you take annual leave. I am not part of it but I see it. I don't see how they can change.

  • -1

    volland

    @ kcjapan

    Well, far be it from me, to critizise your good intentions... but I was under the impression that the discussion in the therad is about this actual existing world....

    Any suggestions for that?

  • 0

    kcjapan

    volland Nov. 24, 2012 - 01:38PM JST: "I was under the impression that the discussion in the thread is about this actual existing world.... Any suggestions for that?"

    In the existing world the article notes as many as 49% to a lower 35% are leaving abusive employment and as the article further states, "how can a student job seeker spot which types of employers to avoid?"

    Our existing world requires study of negative consequences and identification of faults, not the helpless acceptance of harming one another.

    The existing world is shaped by many decisions, the decision to act in an overtly abusive manner is in no one’s' best interest. If it were so, the proposition would be the creation of an increasingly abusive relation between employer and employee, neighbor and friend and for good measure perhaps better prepare the children for this festival of abuse by instituting abusive teaching behavior in schools.

    The suggestion is simple. Honestly evaluate where and when deliberate abuse is an acceptable form of behavior. That might be a start. Of course it is easier to ignore abuse and join in when it is to our advantage.

  • 0

    volland

    @kcjapan "The suggestion is simple. Honestly evaluate where and when deliberate abuse is an acceptable form of behavior. That might be a start. Of course it is easier to ignore abuse and join in when it is to our advantage."

    Again, same answer, you are not really too much interested in the actual existing world. In these times business leaders all over the world dream of the spreading chinese system. Hundred million of people looking for a job, any job. THAT is the reality, in Japan the number may be smaller, but sytem is the same: "You do like not this lousy paid job? Well, there is another 150 applying for it."

  • 0

    kcjapan

    volland Nov. 25, 2012 - 11:54AM JST "the actual existing world. In these times business leaders all over the world dream of the spreading Chinese system. Hundred million of people looking for a job, any job."

    Well said, and indisputable as existing in the actual existing world. It may take more than one big solution to address these systems of profitable exploitation.

    One suggestion, made here, was a study of "when deliberate abuse is an acceptable form of behavior". No less than a real part of the problem specific to this article or the global perspective you describe.

    If knowledge is power let us not bicker and focus on the problem, either large or small.

    Specific behavior, "abusive" in this article, the better documented and understood is just an information gathering step. As a data base it might provide some support for those who feel abused and a reporting system might be developed.

    There is a difference between demanding work and what is reported in this article. The more we know the better for ourselves and maybe for society in general. Maybe this is also worthy of future articles, more thought and factual information. Go JT.

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