Challenging employment system in Japan

Employment system
Challenging employment system:

People ask me why I decided to move to the United States. Japan is a beautiful country. People are polite and it is much safer to live there overall. I don’t go outside after dark and walk around in the US. I just drive my car and make sure not to go into the wrong neighborhood. Then why? Is it worth it?
To me, it is. After studying in American University, I just couldn’t bring myself to pour my energy into finding a job that will mostly work me to death in Japan.

I still work really hard in America and here, you can get fired at will. Even I’ve seen people getting fired from government related jobs in the US that are considered to be one of the most secure in Japan. But I am still not going to work for Japanese companies for multiple reasons, which I am not going to get into details this time.

All of my sisters live in Japan and work there. The story they tell me is everyday challenges most Japanese people experience with their job search. Japanese corporations traditionally adopted the life-time employment system. My dad got lucky and has moved up in the system steadily. He has worked so hard and a few coworkers in his company actually took their lives or died because of overwork (it is called “karoshi” in Japanese). Families of the victims were trying to file for a collective lawsuit back then.

Now things are much more different in Japan. Japanese companies still try to hire new University graduates straight out of college for permanent career positions. Seniors in universities search for permanent jobs and of course the ranking of universities is very important to Japanese hiring managers. The more well known your university is, the better chance you have finding a permanent position in established Japanese companies (i.e. Toyota, Honda, Sony, Panasonic etc) For whatever reasons, you cannot find a job while in college, you may just apply for a job via temp agencies. These positions don’t offer very good benefits and it’s mainly an hourly job without the benefits most permanent career employees in Japanese corporations enjoy.

So you can imagine the stress Japanese people feel just to find a permanent job and be a career staff. It is very important. It is still possible to find a permanent position if your background is extraordinary and you are in 20s. That’s why my best friend in Japan is having a very hard time finding a job. She keeps saying “Most companies are not willing to hire me because I am a woman in early 30s.” It is challenging for men over 30 to find a permanent job in Japan and it is even more challenging for women. My sisters are having the same problem but luckily they are in IT field so they can target specific jobs that require some education and skills. My friend is just looking for an administrative position, maybe office manager that doesn’t require extensive computer skills. I have never even tried to look for a job in Japan at this point, so I don’t really know how true her statement is but I asked my sisters and they said that what my friend was saying was accurate.

Isn’t it so sad that people in 30s are not given an opportunity to start fresh and find a permanent job? It’s like they are so old..Yikes! They are not in 20s anymore. I still want to believe that anything is possible in Japan but the employment system is much more strict and often hiring managers set the age range of applicants. It is very sad but that’s the reality of Japanese employment system.

One of my sister is very unhappy with her job but she is having a really hard time switching to a different job.. Because again she is in her early 30s and single. How can the Japanese government promote the status of women when the companies do discriminate women in general? So it is understandable that women in 30s frantically look for a husband. They are not looking for boyfriends or dates. My friend tells me there is no time for that.

My friend is a college grad, intelligent and well traveled. She is one of the smartest people that I know in Japan and hearing about her job makes me sad. She is overqualified for her position yet her company isn’t willing to hire her as a permanent staff just because…my cousin who is 42 years old fortunately found a permanent position because she knew someone in the company but my parents were saying that she should hold onto this job no matter what because this is likely to be her last opportunity.

Like I said, I don’t have sufficient data to support my family and friend’s statements about the rigid Japanese employment system. Probably work environment is probably one of the primary reasons as to why I decided not to live in Japan for a long time and just build my career in the US. I don’t feel specially highly of myself but don’t want to waste my student loans and all the hard work during my college years just to be a slave for Japanese corporate empire.

Unfortunately many Japanese who graduated from western Universities agree with my view on this. There was an article about the reality of us perceived as the least desirable by Japanese companies. Japanese hiring managers are not always excited about hiring Japanese who graduated from American Universities because we are more likely to be assertive. This practice is probably similar in other east Asian societies.

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