Middle-aged Japanese women


Japanese employment system is known for its rigidity and although it is becoming less common, the lifetime employment system remains intact in most large corporations such as Sony, Toshiba, Panasonic.. The Baby Boom generation did not have trouble finding a secure job in one of those solid corporations right after graduating from college. Contrary to American employment system, Japanese companies still rush to recruit new graduates especially from prestigious Universities in Japan. These new graduates will be trained from scratch, and they will rotate various divisions in order to gain comprehensive skills so they can eventually become part of the manager.

This is a surprisingly different hiring process from America. American companies also do care about applicants’ educational background, yet they focus more on the actual work experiences. Unless the position open in American company is entry level, you are expected to jump in and efficiently work and American managers are looking at the employee’s performance. Japanese companies often place too much emphasis on employee “trying so hard.” Yes, it is a good quality..we need people who are hard working but the outcome matters the most in the U.S. so employment is much less stable compared to Japan. What concerned me badly about this Japanese life-time employment system is that it is not feasible. Obviously, not all the companies can afford to keep ineffective employees on this life-time employment system. It will be a matter of time before the company has to file for bankruptcy. Japan has famously suffered stagnant economy for over a decade now. With the life time employment, obviously this system is no longer working and I believe that this resulted in increased number of temp agencies and outsourcing agencies that hire those who are no longer qualify to apply to these companies as new graduate due to their age. But these companies help them find a job which may or may not last one year. So metimes it is only for 30 months. It is very challenging.

When I worked at DHL in Tokyo Japan many years ago, I was so called “haken-shain” (the Japanese word ) for temporary employee.  Most of the customer service staff members at DHL were temp employees and especially temporary women seemed to be concerned about their next placement or if they even land in a stable position. Japan’s rigid employment policies created these people, especially mothers who are unable to adapt to the Japanese corporate schedule which is not feasible for many mothers out there in Japan. This is why many women rather stay at home with kid while her husband works. Of course, once your temporary job ends, you may find another temporary job but it is usually the same thing. It does not have paid days off (mine didn’t) I had my dad’s health insurance so I was lucky. Many temporary employees have to get their own national insurance. Since the life time employment has a long solid history in Japanese society, it is extremely difficult for temporary people to try to get into a corporation as a full-time employee. The competitions are stiff and it starts in high school. My sisters are extremely bright. She did not go to the best universities but has degree in physics and computer information system. They managed to land in a career position in a outsourcing company. Basically the company outsources my sisters to different companies a year. They have to move every now and then and they provide some benefits. I desperately want them to find a stable job in Japan..where she can clock in and clock out at the end of the day without having to worry about looking for a new apartment. I even suggested if they cold find regular job without involving temp agency. She said they were too old for her. It seems that cut off age is 30. Can you believe that? Of course you have special skills nobody else can do what you do, you get an exception but you get an idea of Japan’s employment system. Which one do you like the most? Japan or Employment system in your country?   Thank you

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